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The WRC wants to leave hybrid Europe

Ott Tanak, Rally del Portogallo 2024

Saudi Arabia, then China and America. The WRC promoter increasingly aims to move the World Rally Championship away from Europe. The WRC is seeking nations that love the turbo petrol engine…

In January 2025, discussions about the WRC (World Rally Championship) reform for 2027 will resume, although they never truly ceased. The WRC has been evolving constantly, with ventures into Saudi Arabia and now eyeing China, while attempting to capture the American market—a pursuit that has been ongoing for years. The challenge with the U.S. is understanding that Americans crave truly difficult and spectacular events. The WRC Promoter is striving to move away from an increasingly green and corporately dominated Europe, which is transitioning from an industrial capitalist stronghold to a capitulating continent. Simon Larkin’s intentions are becoming clear: to disentangle the WRC from a Europe that is beginning to feel restrictive. This strategy is no coincidence.

At the beginning of June, the WRC Promoter announced a decade-long agreement with Saudi Arabia. Beyond the Middle East, there has long been a desire to expand into the Chinese and American markets. A rally in the United States is slated for 2026, as the WRC Promoter informed its key stakeholders earlier this spring about plans to reintroduce the WRC to the U.S. Negotiations with China have also commenced. “Naturally, if we wanted to talk about completing the set, I’d be happy to admit that it would be China. Peter was in China just last week. That’s how we complete the set,” said WRC Event Director Simon Larkin in early June in Sardinia. “China will be the next strategic target.”

Thul, a key figure in these efforts, visited the headquarters of the Chinese Automobile Federation in Beijing and held talks with officials from various regions. The goal is not a remote area but one of China’s ever-expanding metropolises. “I was visiting the Chinese Automobile Federation in Beijing. They are really keen on doing it. But we need a complete reset to find the right area, the right local promoter, and get government support. We’ve had some preliminary discussions with government authorities. They are quite positive,” said Thul. “They are interested in the Greater Bay Area. This includes the major city of Shenzhen, Guangdong, and Guangzhou. Guangzhou has 18 million inhabitants. This is now the new economic heart of southern China.” According to Thul, representatives from other cities have also met with the head of the promotion company. “And there are some cities that are looking to attract tourists and work on their image,” Thul emphasized.

Undoubtedly, China represents a vast market for the WRC. The country hosts numerous automakers, so if China secures its place on the WRC map, it could potentially introduce a new automaker to the series in the long term. “And it’s not just about the rally; if you get the rally, maybe you get another manufacturer. So, it’s about to start now,” Thul speculated. “And in this area, there are many automakers. There’s BYD, there’s GAC, and many others. They are no longer focusing solely on electric vehicles but are also introducing hybrids. They are selling more hybrids in China. And the Chinese government has never stopped developing combustion vehicles.”

The potential inclusion of China in the WRC circuit marks a significant step in the championship’s global expansion. The country’s booming automotive industry and large market could bring new opportunities and collaborations, making China an invaluable addition to the WRC landscape.