Russia, India among countries WRC teams “requesting” to visit

The manufacturers view both nations as untapped markets that could be exploited and talks are ongoing between the WRC Promoter, the FIA and teams about incorporating the countries into future calendars.

The subject has been on the agenda for some time, with the United States and China also targets.

Matton believes introducing the competition to new territories is one way of ensuring the WRC fulfils its goal of having a “global footprint”.

“The WRC Promoter - supported by the FIA - is working with ASNs [national sporting authorities] and event promoters around the globe to understand the opportunities,” Matton told Autosport.

“The WRC thrives on diversity and making the best of the local conditions, so we will continue to receive innovative proposals from around the globe - the strategy is still to have a global footprint.

“This global approach is not only the aim of the FIA but also the manufacturers - they’re requesting to go to China, Northern America, Russia, and in the future, countries like India.”

Progress is being made, with Japan - the home of Toyota - returning to the calendar this year for the first time since 2010.

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota Yaris WRC

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota Yaris WRC

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

China, meanwhile, came close to making its WRC debut in 2016 only for freak weather to destroy large parts of the route that had been earmarked for the gravel counter.

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The series’ last foray to the US - the home market of Ford - stretches as far back as 1988.

M-Sport Ford team principal Richard Millener feels the added cost associated with freighting cars, equipment and personnel to a long-haul event in North America is outweighed by the media and marketing value it would generate.

“It’s always been important to explore new events in new countries,” he said.

“We can’t sit still, and if the sport is to evolve and develop, we need to ensure we’re attracting new audiences and new investment.

“The potential has to be there and the infrastructure in place to actually hold a round of the World Rally Championship, but we’ve always been open and keen to explore new markets and expand the reach of the sport.

“It wouldn’t be a world championship if we only competed in Europe, so long-haul events are integral.

“Of course, there’s a fine balance to ensuring we can incorporate these events in the most cost-effective way, but the organisers and promotor are both very proactive and will often find ways to support the teams.”

The WRC has fast-tracked multiple new events onto the schedule during the coronavirus health pandemic, including Rally Estonia and Rally Monza, with Belgium’s Ypres Rally set to join that growing list come August.

However, once the situation is brought under control with the vaccine roll-out, Matton says the FIA and WRC Promoter will “revert to a traditional application and selection procedure” for rallies.

“This ever-changing situation has required us to be more open-minded, creative and adaptable than in the past,” he explained.

“We have been able to try different things in terms of how we organise events - and it gave us the chance to be more innovative, and forward-thinking.

“The experience and new processes [that have been] developed during this period will enable us to continue having a flexible and efficient approach to building the World Rally Championship.”

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