The World Rally Championship hasn’t held a round on U.S. soil in 33 years, but personnel within the series and particularly the M-Sport Ford team are keen to bring the sport back to our shores.
It won’t happen overnight, though. First, the WRC is exploring trialing a non-championship event of some type, like a “roadshow or candidate rally,” according to Motorsport.com. If all goes according to plan, that’ll hopefully lead to an actual U.S. rally on the calendar. And although nobody’s talking about specific locations yet, it’s quite possible it could return to the grounds of the Olympus Rally outside Shelton, Washington, which currently plays host to the ARA Rally, but used to function as a WRC event in the ’80s.
“For sure America is something we are working quite hard on,” [FIA Rally Director Yves] Matton told Motorsport.com.
“We want to have an event in the close future in North America. We will try to something in 2022, for sure it will not be an event that is part of the calendar but we will try to achieve something in 2022 to go there.
“We can have a lot of things. We can have a roadshow we can have a candidate event any form of event which could become the first step in North America with the WRC without being involved in the championship as a proper event.
Ford is reportedly one of the primary instigators behind all this, which makes sense given that Ford is the only American constructor active in the WRC. The Blue Oval’s WRC program is operated by M-Sport, and M-Sport Team Principal Rich Millener leaves no ambiguity that the automaker is interested in boosting its sporting profile in the U.S.
“I think an event in North America is part and parcel of why Ford wants to be involved,” Millener told Motorsport.com.
“We want to see an event, it is a huge market that is currently untapped. They have got some great facilities, great roads and great opportunities to do something.
“Anything in America is always bigger and better than anything else so we’d love to get there and being the home of Ford I think that is really important.
“Whether it will change the levels they [Ford] are involved at I don’t think so, but we are not looking for that change at the moment.
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Ford left the WRC as a full factory effort after the 2012 season; since then, M-Sport’s essentially been responsible for running the Fiesta, though Ford has made technical and financial contributions to M-Sport all the while. So M-Sport exists as a pseudo-privateer with factory backing, and the close relationship with Ford has worked quite well for the crew. M-Sport World Rally Team claimed drivers’ championships in 2017 and 2018 — both times with Sébastien Ogier at the wheel — and a constructors’ title in 2017.
Millener said he believes the objective is to secure a full-on U.S. rally as early as 2023, though 2024 may be more likely. It’d be very strange to see a souped-up Fiesta kicking up mud in the Pacific Northwest, given that Ford’s long since canceled all of its fun hot hatches on this side of the pond. I highly doubt an American WRC event would change Dearborn’s “no cars” stance for the U.S., but we can certainly dream.