Czech Republic to Host World Rally Championship in Autumn 2023: Official Launch in Prague
Motorsport fans can look forward to an exhilarating event at the end of October. The Central European Rally, the twelfth edition of the prestigious WRC World Championship series, is set to thrill spectators in the Czech Republic, Germany, and Austria.
The vibrant colors paint a vivid picture of the upcoming event. The rally will kick off with a magnificent ceremonial start at Prague’s Old Town Square, right under the iconic Astronomical Clock. The excitement will surge as the rally cars cross the historic Charles Bridge, heading to the thrilling city special at Strahov Stadium. The action-packed event will continue the next day, starting from Passau.
The excitement is building, and while the final details are yet to be confirmed, the plan is set for an incredible rally experience. The rally will indeed kick off in Prague, and Passau, Germany, will serve as the heart of the event, with its exhibition grounds providing a captivating backdrop for the entire championship.
Jan Št’ovíček, President of the Autoclub of the Czech Republic and a member of the World Motorsport Council of the International Automobile Federation FIA, expressed the fulfillment of a long-held dream for fans. Alongside our partners from the federations of Germany and Austria, we have made this World Rally Championship event a reality, as mentioned in a press release.
The dream of hosting a World Rally Championship came tantalizingly close at the beginning of the year. The renowned Barumka Rally was on the verge of making the leap from the European to the World Championship, raising hopes among fans and organizers alike. However, the Ypres Rally in Belgium ultimately took precedence, and the Barum Czech Rally Zlín missed out on the final selection. The disappointment was palpable, as Jan Regner, Barum Rally’s deputy director, expressed how incredibly close they were to achieving their dream. Nevertheless, the aspiration remained alive, and little did they know that their dream would be realized sooner than expected. The WRC Promoter from Munich chose the Belgian Ypres Rally as the final addition to the calendar, given that it had already hosted the World Rally the previous year. While fans kept their hopes alive, few could have predicted that their dream would come true so swiftly.
“Rallying holds a special place in the hearts of motorsport enthusiasts in our country, and countless Czech fans ardently follow the World Championship events. Now, they will have the incredible opportunity to witness it firsthand on home soil. With our rich tradition in the automotive industry, we can proudly embrace the World Rally Championship, fulfilling the legacy of our pioneering ancestors who laid the foundation for motoring,” expressed Št’ovíček.
Initially scheduled for approval in October, the World Rally Championship calendar faced a delay and was recently published by the International Automobile Federation. “The Central European Rally concept aligns with contemporary trends of organizing premier events through cross-border collaboration, evident in other sports. The distinctive appeal of the Central European Rally will undoubtedly be augmented by commencing it in Prague, the heart of Europe,” emphasized the organizers.
The detailed arrangements and locations of the stages in the Czech Republic remain known only to the organizers. The press release mentions “challenging tracks in south-west Bohemia.”
“We are delighted that the FIA WRC is making a comeback in Germany, and we can rely on the established stages from the ADAC 3-Städte Rally in the districts of Freyung-Grafenau and Passau in Lower Bavaria,” stated the organizers.
If you are concerned about the distance between regions, it’s worth considering that in Sweden, for instance, it is typical to travel up to two hundred kilometers for tests. The issue of distance was also raised in relation to Barumka, where the focus was on the limited availability of accommodation in Zlín and its surrounding areas.
“We all wish for a World Championship event in the Czech Republic, and Barumka would truly deserve it,” expressed Jan Kopecký, the 2018 WRC2 World Champion and a nine-time winner of the Barum Rally.
Now, his excitement, along with the entire Czech rally community, is evident as the Central European Rally approaches. Tomáš Enge will be the ambassador for the Central European Rally in the Czech Republic. Autoclub President Jan Štovíček was Tomáš Enge’s navigator at the recent Prague Rallyesprint event.
Undoubtedly, hosting the World Championship competition will bring significant financial benefits as well. For the Barumka event, organizers estimate that motorsport fans in the region will contribute around CZK 150 million. With more than fifty thousand unique spectators and over a quarter of a million people witnessing all stages, the interest is already substantial. However, when it comes to the World Championship, even higher attendance is expected, with a considerable increase in interest from both domestic and international fans.
The Autoclub and WRC Promoter have organized a press conference, where we hope to gather more behind-the-scenes information. In any case, the Central European Rally is already confirmed and will serve as the penultimate round of the championship. The new WRC season is set to begin in January with the traditional Monte Carlo rally, followed by the return of the Mexican and Chilean rallies to the calendar after a hiatus due to the pandemic. The championship will conclude with the final competition in mid-November in Japan.
In 2023, a new generation of hybrid specials will be competing in the WRC, including the Ford Puma Rally1, Hyundai i20 N Rally1, and Toyota GR Yaris WRC Rally1. The Toyota team is likely to feature drivers like Kalle Rovanpera or Elfyn Evans, while the Hyundai factory team will see Thierry Neuville and Esapekka Lappi in action. As for Loeb or Ogier, it’s still uncertain, so fans might need to keep their hopes up and prayers ready (just in case).