Ireland's chances of returning to the World Rally Championship calendar have improved in the wake of a positive meeting between FIA vice president Mohammed ben Sulayem and Irish senator Marc MacSharry.
Rally Ireland has not been included in the WRC since 2009 and it will not run next year. MacSharry is working to try and return the Sligo-based cross-border to the series for 2012. WRC promoter North One Sport will be presenting the 2012 calendar to the FIA's World Motor Sport Council in March next year.
In the wake of his meeting with ben Sulayem, MacSharry said he would be contacting the Rally Ireland stakeholders Motorsport Ireland, Failte Ireland, Tourism Ireland, the office of the Minister for Sport and the Secretary General of the Department in an attempt to further a formal bid to North One Sport.
In addition to chasing the return of world rallying, MacSharry also wants to see the FIA hierarchy in northwest Ireland.
"As a prelude to the WRC's return, I intend to illicit support to mount a bid for Sligo to host the World Motor Sport Council meeting in 2011 and the prestigious FIA General Assembly and prize giving in 2013," said MacSharry. "With Sligo as its lead, Ireland proved to the world that it can successfully bid for, win and host global events such as the WRC. In 2007, in particular, we displayed our capability to not just compete, but beat the best the rest could offer with the Irish round of the WRC ranking second in the championship and first in terms of television viewers worldwide.
"Some 800 million people viewed aspects of Rally Ireland that year between live and delayed coverage. Such exposure, together with direct revenue and tourism generation, is too big to ignore – especially in these recessionary times."
Ben Sulayem said: "Senator MacSharry's support for motorsport is most welcome and his enthusiasm and determination for Ireland's hosting of FIA events is encouraging. Given Ireland's long association with motorsport, its track record on Rally Ireland, together with the work and commitment of Motorsport Ireland and Senator MacSharry, clearly I would be supportive of any Irish Initiative to host the WRC or other FIA events."
Rally Ireland has run as a WRC round twice, in 2007 and '09.