Rally USA sets sights on joining WRC in 2026


Breaking into the US market has been identified as a key objective by the WRC, having last hosted a round in North America in 1988 – the Olympus Rally.

Last year, plans to revive Rally USA emerged with a brand new event located in Chattanooga in southeast Tennessee, utilising gravel roads located in in the Cherokee National Forest and around the Ocoee River region in Polk County.

The planning committee for the project features an experienced group of rally competitors and organisers, while also benefitting from the support of the American Rally Association (ARA), Chattanooga Tourism, the State of Tennessee, regional governments and private sponsors.

A demonstration event was held in September last year which was observed by the FIA’s safety delegate Michele Mouton. Another event is now planned for 14-16 June that will mimic a WRC event schedule to some degree with organisers hoping to attract overseas privateers.

It is hoped a candidate rally can be held next year ahead of a possible inclusion on the 2026 WRC calendar.

A contingent from Rally USA, led by rally manager Stuart Wood, attended last weekend’s WRC season opener in Monte Carlo as part of a fact-finding mission.

“We have to do a series of events to build. We had an event in the fall [Autumn] that was small, we have a number of training events. We have an event this summer, and then the goal would be to have the next one or something in 2025 and maybe be the observed events,” Wood told Motorsport.com.

“It’s not a certainty at the moment, but the event in June will be a stepping stone towards that [candidate event] and then the goal will be to be observed and it be able to be on the calendar in ’26 or ’27, but that’s what we’re looking at.”

Miki Biasion / Tiziano Siviero, Lancia Delta.

Miki Biasion / Tiziano Siviero, Lancia Delta.

 

The WRC is determined not to rush its move into the USA as it wants to ensure it creates an event with a lasting legacy.

“The USA will not be ready for 2025, 100%,” said WRC event director Simon Larkin.

“When we go to the US, we want to do more than just go there and do a rally. We want to have an event that’s going to have an impact, because it’s a market that is important, but we don’t just want to go there and make up the numbers.

“We want to make sure it’s an event that has sufficient funding but also sufficient time to test. We already have great support from both the state and regional government in our potential home there. It’s just a few funding pieces that need to go into place there.”

Larkin revealed in September last year that the other hurdle that stands in the way of the event is securing the necessary insurance requirements. However, he is confident that can be achieved. 

“Insurance I think we can solve. The US is a very complicated insurance market, it’s a very expensive insurance market. And we as WRC Promoter are working very hard with a huge number of both brokers and underwriters. We think we can solve that problem.”

Wood shares Larkin’s confidence and is set to hold meeting with an insurance broker next month.

“It [insurance] is an issue and the ASN [national motorsport governing body] in the US has expressed a great deal of concern and rightly so because we have a litigious society in the US and there’s an assumption that we haven’t had WRC for all these years because of that,” added Wood.

“So we put that as top three items to deal with – obviously get some money, get an event set up organisationally and then figure out the insurance. I have a meeting in two weeks when I’m back in the States, with an insurance broker to do site visits on our stages with their risk engineers.

“I’m not worried because our event has two or three things going for it from a safety perspective.

“Number one, we can design it however we want, we’re not limited by historical design or anything so it’s a new event in that sense. And number two, the fans in the United States don’t have a culture of being bad fans, so I think they will respect a set of rules on how to be a good fan.

“And the last thing is our roads just inherently in the national forest we’re working on, they don’t have a lot of access.

“The lack of access makes it very difficult to get high volumes of fans on the forest stages, so we have a number of out of the forest stages that are on government land and some private land where we can have lots of access and many spectators, but we can also put barriers and fencing and things that we might need to make them safe.”

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