The FIA World Rally Championship’s first American round since 1988 has moved a significant step closer, with dry-run events for a Tennessee-based WRC return set for this year.
Chattanooga, Tenn., will host Rally Tennessee, a two-part series that includes a demonstration event on April 7-8 and a test event scheduled for September.
If successful, both Rally Tennessee dry-runs will position Chattanooga and southeastern Tennessee as the potential location for the WRC’s first American round since the Washington-based Olympus Rally hosted three events in 1986-’88. And with the WRC and its participating manufacturers keen to add the U.S. market to the calendar, that could be as soon as 2024.
The demonstration and test events will use closed forest roads in the Cherokee National Forest for the timed special stages, as well as various locations in Chattanooga that would host the event’s service park and logistical hub, and the local highway system for transit to and from the stages.
The format of each will provide event organizers and WRC Promoter feedback on the sporting and organizational aspects of a project that has already been more than 18 months in consultation and planning with local, regional, and international partners.
Already involved in the project are OtherSport LLC, Chattanooga Tourism Co., American Rally Association (ARA), and partners throughout Tennessee’s Hamilton, Bradley, and Polk counties, as well as WRC Promoter.
“A few components that enticed event organizers included Chattanooga’s outdoor assets, quality of racing roads, and the ability to fulfill logistic needs,” said a statement from the Chattanooga Tourism Co., adding: “Hosting a WRC event is expected to have an economic impact of $34 million, the largest impact for any event supported by the Tourism Co.”
WRC Promoter’s director of events Simon Larkin told Dirtfish.com: “We welcome the announcement coming out of Chattanooga today. WRC Promoter has been interested in a return to the USA, a country that was an occasional host to WRC events between 1973 and 1988.
“We are currently negotiating with a consortium that we believe has all the necessary ingredients to bring the WRC back to the USA and will make further announcements in conjunction with the FIA, when details and timelines can be confirmed.”