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Rally Japan’s WRC return set to be abandoned at FIA council meeting

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Rally Japan’s return to the World Rally Championship is expected to be abandoned at Friday’s meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council, Autosport understands.

The Honshu-based event, which is scheduled to run its candidate rally next month, was dropped to reduce the proposed 15-round calendar to a more financially-viable 14-fixture schedule.

The decision was taken at an extraordinary meeting of the WRC Commission on Thursday.

Autosport understands that the FIA invited WRC Promoter to review its initial 14-round proposal to include the Tour de Corse.

That 15-round proposal went into the meeting and the French island event has retained its place on the WRC calendar for next season.

Earlier this year, WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla had spoken with confidence about Japan’s first return to the world championship since 2010 as he explained that the plan would be submitted to the WMSC.

But WRC Promoter’s deal with Rally Japan appears to have counted for little in what was described as a “difficult” meeting.

“It’s not so easy now, both [FIA and WRC Promoter] want to go in their direction, but 15 rounds was impossible,” said one source.

“Hyundai told [the meeting] this would be costing another €1m. The others all agree.

“But finally, we get the calendar. It’s October now and now we can know what is coming next year. That’s something positive.”

The expected decision is unlikely to sit easily with Toyota as the Japanese manufacturer had worked hard to promote the potential for a WRC return to its homeland next season.

Autosport understands that the WRC manufacturers were told that next year’s rise to a 14th event would not cost them anything in terms of logistics, with Chile and Japan both footing the bill for taking the series to their countries.

The teams will now be forced to find extra budget for the return to Corsica.

But in an effort to offset those costs, the FIA has reportedly offered a 50% reduction in championship registration.

In addition to the calendar discussion, the WRC Commission meeting also discussed the merits of WRC2 Pro, which will be a manufacturer-only division for the current WRC2 class.

There were no discussions regarding running bigger restrictors on R5 cars to bolster them to a so-called ‘R5+’ category.

The calendar and WRC2 proposals now go forward to Friday’s WMSC, where they will be voted on by all FIA world council members.

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