2024 World Rally Championship Might Get An American Leg

Motorsport / 7 Comments

It would be hosted in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the World Rally Championship could return to the USA for the first time since 1988 in 2024, with a rally event potentially possible in the Smoky Mountains of Southeast Tennessee around September next year.

If all goes according to plan, 2024 will see the first US-based WRC event in 36 years. According to Jalopnik, the FIA (world motorsport's governing body) has been considering an American leg for some time, with various potential locations including Washington, Seattle, Utah, and Colorado.

But things look most promising for Tennessee, with the Chattanooga Tourism Co. pursuing the possibility of a local rally racing event for over a year.

Barry White, president of the Chattanooga Tourism Co., said on Wednesday that the region is scheduled to host a couple of test runs this year, which will determine the viability of a race later in the year.

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The WRC event would come to the counties of Hamilton, Bradley, and Polk. A demonstration rally, planned for April 7-8, would likely take place somewhere here and, if successful, would open the door for an official test race sometime in September. This event would be based in Chattanooga, but most races would take place on the gravel roads of the Cherokee National Forest and the Ocoee River region in Polk County.

"The WRC has been looking to get back to the US, and we've been working with them for the past year and a half," confirmed White.

The chief sports officer for the Chattanooga Tourism Co., Tim Morgan, has been blown away by the interest that rally racing attracts elsewhere: "There is a lot pent-up for an international rally event in the United States, and we know these events draw people from all over the globe. There is a significant interest and demand for this type of adventure race that I never knew about until we started looking into this. It's amazing."

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White estimates a WRC race headquartered in Chattanooga could inject as much as $34 million into the local economy. The ripple effect from increased media exposure would surely bolster tourism in other sectors.

"These races offer an incredible experience for the drivers and spectators, and this fits in with many of the adventure sports like hang gliding, rock climbing, caving, biking, and whitewater rafting that this region is known for," said Morgan. "In places where we saw World Rally Championship races in Portugal and Finland, rally racing there is really like NASCAR racing in our country."

Jalopnik reports that the WRC's director of business development, Marc de Jong, puts 20% of the sport's social media audience as US-based, so success seems guaranteed. We'd attribute much of that interest to the trailblazing Ken Block and others like him.


We are still in the early days, and it would be premature to bet on a US leg, but things look good. Chattanooga Tourism Co. is spending $200,000 this year and is working with the event operator in charge of Rally Mexico.

Ford, Hyundai, and Toyota, WRC's three automaker partners, are also very keen on an American event. Seeing a Hyundai i20-based rally car competing with a Toyota GR Yaris and a Ford Puma would be far more interesting than seeing a Santa Cruz taking the off-road racing fight to a Wrangler. Ford is apparently the most excited, according to de Jong. Although it has already committed to F1 and other motorsports, another feather in its cap wouldn't hurt.

Speaking of F1, the success that the premier class of open-wheel single-seater racing has experienced in recent years can certainly draw parallels with the booming interest that the sport has experienced in the US in recent years. WRC returning to the US seems like a no-brainer for both the sport and America's tourism industry.

With a renewed interest in rallying in America, the potential for WRC-like street-legal specials sold here is tantalizing to contemplate...


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