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World Rally Championship set for return to Irish shores for first time since 2009

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Craig Breen and Paul Nagle during Round 10 of the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship in Finland. Photographer: Dufour Fabien. Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Craig Breen and Paul Nagle during Round 10 of the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship in Finland. Photographer: Dufour Fabien. Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Craig Breen and Paul Nagle during Round 10 of the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship in Finland. Photographer: Dufour Fabien. Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

The World Rally Championship is set to return to Ireland for the first time in 13 seasons as motorsport’s governing body, the FIA, is lining up Northern Ireland as a stage for the 2022 season.

British publication Motorsport News reports that the FIA World Motorsport Council has approved another 13-round WRC season, and sources suggest that the inclusion of Rally Northern Ireland is a formality once Government funding is approved.

The Belfast counter is set to be a Tarmac event to be held as the ninth round of the 2022 championship from August 18-21, which will be the first in the WRC’s hybrid era. It will be the first time the sport has held a stage in Ireland since various North-West counties held Rally Ireland in 2009, which was based in Sligo.

It is believed the inclusion of Irish duo Craig Breen and Paul Neagle as full-time drivers with M-Sport has helped the Northern Ireland Rally reach the calendar, and will be the first time the UK has held a stage since Welsh-based Rally GB ended in 2019.

However it faces a challenge to remain a long-term fixture as some FIA chiefs have stated they would like to see a 50/50 split in the future between events held in and outside Europe. As it stands, nine of the 12 confirmed events for 2022 are European.

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