The Monte Carlo Rally will return to the World Rally Championship calendar in 2012, the FIA has announced.
A deal was in place for the event to act as season opener for both the WRC and Intercontinental Rally Challenge next year, and the governing body confirmed its return to the WRC schedule at today's World Motor Sport Council meeting.
The world-renowned rally parted company with the WRC after 2008, and has since run as an IRC round. But there was a surprise at the other end of the 2012 WRC calendar, with the anticipated debut of an Abu Dhabi round put off for at least a year.
"Abu Dhabi, previously published on the calendar subject to approval of the Event Business Plan, has been removed from the 2012 calendar," said an FIA statement. "The organizer is invited to submit a proposal to run a candidate event for possible future inclusion in the series."
The previous 12-round provisional 2012 schedule has still been increased to 13 events, due to both the addition of Monte Carlo and a potential reintroduction of an Italian round, which has been listed as an extra rally with a date to be advised.
In another change agreed to by the WMSC, the pre-rally shakedown will now act as a "qualifying" stage on gravel events, with the quickest drivers allowed to pick their position in the leg one running order. This will end the situation of the championship leader being disadvantaged by running first on potentially dusty roads on day one of rallies.
The practice of cars running in rally order on days two and three will also be changed, with a return to the previous system of the leading cars starting legs two and three in reverse order.
"From Jan. 1, 2012, the shakedown will be used as a qualifying stage for all Priority 1 and 2 drivers to determine the start order for each individual gravel rally," said the statement. "Taking into account the shakedown times, P1 and P2 crews – in order of fastest to slowest – will be permitted to select their start positions.
"Subsequent days, all Priority 1 and 2 crews will restart in reverse order. The start position of all remaining crews will be determined according to the current regulations."