2023 WRC Calendar Thoughts

The 2023 WRC calendar was finally published in late November, already after the 2022 season had ended. There’s only a few changes and we could say it’s now back to usual after a couple of exceptional years. And once again the calendar is 13 events long instead of 14.

Cover image by Rodolfo Marin / Flickr

DateRallySurfaceCharacter
19–22 JanMonte CarloTarmac/SnowTechnical
9–12 FebSwedenSnowFast
16–19 MarMexicoGravelQuite technical
20–23 AprCroatiaTarmacFast / technical
11–14 MayPortugalGravelQuite technical
1–4 JunSardiniaGravelTechnical
22–25 JunSafariGravelRough
20–23 JulEstoniaGravelFast / technical
3–6 AugFinlandGravelFast
7–10 SepAcropolisGravelTechnical
28 Sep – 1 OctChileGravelFast / technical
26–29 OctCentral EuropeTarmac??
16–19 NovJapanTarmacVery technical

Essentially the changes are that Ypres (which was originally supposed to be GB), New Zealand and Catalunya are off the calendar, while Mexico and Chile return with the new Central European Rally run on the soils of Germany, Austria and Czech Republic.

Personally I’m happy to see Chile back and Central European rally seems like an interesting concept. Meanwhile, Mexico is only good for the fact that it fills up the long gap in March, between Sweden and Croatia, that we’ve had for the past two seasons.

If we align the changes, NZ could be exchanged for Chile, and Ypres for Central Europe, but changing Catalunya to Mexico makes the calendar appear more gravel-heavy. Now tarmac setup is used in four rallies and gravel setup in nine rallies, with snow tyres being used on one rally with each chassis type. In fact the same gravel/tarmac/snow split was used each year from 2011 to 2019.

DIFFERENT CHARACTERS

There’s a nice variety of rallies, but maybe Mexico, Portugal, Sardinia and Acropolis are too close to each other. Each event is technical and somewhat rough but not super slow and rough like Turkey or Cyprus, especially considering the stages Acropolis has been run on lately. There is obviously Safari, but driving on soft fesh-fesh, tracks plowed into soil or very straightforwards gravel roads is a completely different challenge to the twisty and rocky roads of Turkey or Cyprus.

On the fast end of the spectrum, it seems that Umeå is a faster snow rally than Värmland was, while Estonia has kept becoming slower by increasing the amount of small technical roads. Pace-wise Chile will sit somewhere in the middle with Portugal, having also a mix of fast and technical but not as fast as Estonia.

As for tarmac events, it’s clear that we are taking off two very fast tarmac events with Ypres and Catalunya. I haven’t yet studied the roads of Central Europe, but I’m assuming it will be more like Barum or Deutschland with narrower and worn tarmac roads, so this would mean that a wide and smooth rally like Catalunya is missing from the calendar. Furthermore, Central Europe could be a tricky and slippery event being run so late in the autumn, increasing its contrast to the racing lines of Catalunya.

The curse of 14 goes on

2023 became yet another attempt at making the calendar into 14 events. In 2016 China was canceled because of roads being damaged in a storm, and in 2019 same happened to Australia with forest fires. And of course 2020 would have been also 14 events long, had it not been for a certain virus stopping the world for a while. (Yeah, someone still remembers how we had a list of replacement rallies for 2021 in case an event would have to be canceled?)

It was rumored for months that Saudi-Arabia would have been the fourteenth event of 2023, but it appears they will need to arrange a candidate event first. Personally I won’t be happy to see this rally on the calendar, and can’t see myself writing about it or even following it.

COVID might be gone, but there’s new challenges in the current world. I wonder how teams would accept adding more rallies to the season now with many expenses running at so high level.

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