The Monte Carlo Rally will not kick off the World Rally Championship next season, but could instead form the opening round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
The event has lost its traditional place as the first round of the WRC under a system of rotation designed to reduce the calendar from 15 events to 12. Rally Ireland will be the WRC opener in February 2009, but will then fall off the schedule along with Wales Rally GB in 2010.
The FIA-sanctioned IRC, which was set up for 2007 by satellite TV channel Eurosport, has admitted that it has stepped in with a view to taking over the Monte for 2009. The rally is already listed on the 2010 WRC calendar.
IRC boss Jacques Behar revealed that he has been in discussion with the event’s organisers for some time.
“We have been talking to the Automobile Club de Monaco and we are confident that we can make it happen,” he said. “But we cannot put a timescale on a decision now.”
Behar said he believed the IRC would appeal to the Monte’s organisers. “We can bring more of our cars than they get WRC cars right now,” he said. “We believe that is more in the spirit of the Monte.”
The IRC is open to Super 1600 and Super 2000 cars, which are built to similar rules as in the Eurosport-promoted World Touring Car Championship. The series was created as a lower-cost category designed to give opportunities to up and coming drivers.
This is not the first time a rotation system has been used in the WRC. The Monte was left out of the championship for that reason in 1996, 22 years after its only previous absence, when it was cancelled during the fuel crisis.