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WRC’s Saudi Arabia Deal: A Disastrous Move for the Sport

01/06/2024

Today marks a dark day for the WRC as the promoter reveals a controversial ten-year agreement with Saudi Arabia, adding the Middle Eastern nation to the FIA World Rally Championship calendar from 2025. This decision, announced at Rally Italia Sardegna, is a blatant disregard for the sport’s heritage and the fans who have supported it for decades.

The WRC’s return to the Middle East for the first time since the 2011 Jordan Rally is not a triumph but a travesty. Rally Saudi Arabia is nothing more than a cash grab, with no regard for the sport’s history or its dedicated fan base. The notion of showcasing Saudi Arabia’s landscapes – from volcanic rock to sandy desert – is overshadowed by the country’s lack of a domestic rally championship and its well-documented human rights issues.

HRH Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Abdullah Al-Faisal’s words ring hollow. This is not about transforming Saudi Arabia into a motorsport hub; it’s about sports washing – using international events to distract from the country’s troubling record. The WRC has sold its soul for oil money, ignoring the passionate rallying traditions of countries like France, Wales, and Italy.

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s enthusiasm for this deal is equally disappointing. This isn’t about facing unique challenges; it’s about bowing to financial pressure. The real challenge is preserving the integrity of the sport, not pandering to the highest bidder.

WRC Promoter Managing Director Jona Siebel’s excitement is misplaced. Saudi Arabia’s rally may offer distinctive challenges, but at what cost? The sport’s identity is being diluted, its roots forgotten. This is not a step forward; it’s a step into oblivion.

This deal, subject to FIA World Motor Sport Council approval, is a betrayal. It’s a slap in the face to fans who have cherished the WRC for its authenticity and rich history. Rallying is about more than money; it’s about passion, tradition, and community. This decision undermines all of that.

The WRC must reconsider this disastrous move. Fans don’t want a sport sold to the highest bidder; they want rallies that honor the true spirit of competition. Reject this agreement and stay true to what makes rallying great.

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