The International Automobile Federation (FIA) and World Rally Championship (WRC) have failed rallying badly.

Their decision to green light the ridiculously selfish and short-sighted 2018 WRC calendar is a failure on their part.

The WRC had a golden opportunity to grow the sport outside Europe by bringing a round to New Zealand.

The work had been done; the finances found to get the best cars and drivers in the world to arguably the best rally roads on the planet. Everything had been ticked off and for the past year Rally New Zealand organisers have done absolutely everything asked of them by the promoter. But at the 11th hour a bid from Turkey came in and the decision was made to go there instead.


I could understand if Japan, China or the United States - big populations with big car markets - had been chosen instead but to go to a country that is unstable politically defies logic.

Rallying in New Zealand has gone through a renaissance over the past couple of years.

Hayden Paddon's emergence on the WRC scene and his breakthrough win in Argentina last year (the first driver from the southern hemisphere to ever win a WRC event) as well as the flow-on effect have seen the sport acknowledged in mainstream news coverage more than ever before. Paddon's impact has seen more drivers enter the local competition and the introduction of the AP4 cars has had such an impact that many people claim the New Zealand Rally Championship to be the best domestic championship outside Europe.

It has put pressure on Australia to raise its game as their leading drivers ponder entering the New Zealand championship instead.

A handbrake has been pulled on all that momentum with the greedy decision to go to Turkey instead.

New Zealand and rallying fans have been fed a load of rubbish about costs being prohibitive. If costs are such an issue why have two teams paid a contracted driver to sit on the sidelines this year? Why were they all showing interest in bringing drivers or cars to New Zealand in 2017 to get a trial run for 2018 should the rally have made the calendar? Why is the sport seriously considering expanding to four-car works teams next year or beyond?

The arguments do not stack up. The more likely scenario is that Turkey offered a better financial package to the promoter. That is the only reasonable summation I can make.

I get the need to make a buck but there's a responsibility to do right by the championship.


And worst still - why has New Zealand not been given any encouragement to continue to pursue a spot on the calendar in the future? Why did the promoters not agree to add New Zealand in 2019 or 2020 and give teams some time to prepare?

The argument I hear is that this is a delicate political situation. I don't doubt that. At a time when manufacturers are seriously evaluating what motorsport categories they invest in you could understand the FIA and WRC being cautious. Formula 1 takes 13 of its 20 races to destinations outside Europe however. Formula E holds 10 of 14 races elsewhere. The World Endurance Championship has five of nine rounds outside Europe while MotoGP has committed to growing from the six of its current 18 rounds over the coming seasons. The major world motorsport championships are looking to expand more than ever before but rallying continues to sit on its hands. Maybe if they grew the championship further afield other manufacturers like Subaru, Mitsubishi, Mazda, GM, Mahindra or Ford, that aren't Europe focused, would consider joining.

The WRC and the FIA owe rally fans an apology and they owe them to fix this mistake.