By John Kenny
In a major blow to Irish motorsport, Mondello Park has announced, that despite its best efforts, the Kildare track will not now host a round of the 2013 FIA European Rallycross Championship.
The event, which has attracted crowds of over 10,000 in the past, was listed on the original 2013 calendar and a safety inspection also gave the go ahead to the ERC hosting a round here, subject to some alterations which the circuit were willing to accommodate.
The stumbling block, however, appears to be a clash of dates with the newly formed Rallycross Challenge set up in conjunction with European track owners, many of whom were excluded from running a round of the new ERC series.
The ERC was due to run at Mondello on the weekend of 17 and 18 August but that is also the weekend that the rival Rallycross Challenge will run a round of their new series at the Eurocircuit at Valkenswaard in Holland, clashing with the proposed ERC round in Ireland
Despite contracts being written up and all but signed, Mondello Park felt uneasy with the clash of dates with the rival series and discussed it with the new ERC promoters IMG.
An alternative date could not be found and the Mondello organisers decided that the clash with the Rallycross Challenge could wreck its hosting of the ERC event.
"After the FIA calendar had been published, the organisers of the Rallycross Challenge, which appears to be a rival series, scheduled a date in Holland on the same weekend as the Mondello Park date and the FIA (the world governing body) seemed powerless to intervene," said John Morris, managing director at the County Kildare Circuit.
"We highlighted our concerns about this to IMG in writing on several occasions and we discussed the issue at a meeting in London on 11 January.
"As a result of those concerns, it was decided in consultation with the Championship promoters IMG to sit out running an ERC event in Ireland in 2013."
All may not be lost, however, as IMG are still keen to run an ERC event here and it could be included in the 2014 Championship.
The FIA was advised of the decision by Mondello last week as were the other event organisers at a meeting in Modena in Italy, prior to the 2012 Championship Prize Giving and the 2013 Safety Seminar.
"Mondello Park is an Internationally Licensed Race Circuit and we are solidly booked with events and shows from the middle of July until the middle of October, so we simply had nowhere to move our ERC event," Morris said.
"The clashing event could have taken competitors from our event and consequently neither Mondello Park, nor IMG was prepared to take the risk."
Motorsport fans in Ireland will be desperately disappointed with the news as it looks certain now that Norway’s Petter Solberg, the former World Rally Champion, is moving to the ERC this year having failed to land a contract to compete in the WRC.
Solberg has many fans in Ireland and his presence in Ireland would have put many more spectators through the Mondello Park gates in August
"Although there will be no FIA Rallycross in Mondello Park this year the door remains open for 2014," Morris continued.
"IMG has indicated its genuine wish to have Ireland on the calendar, due to the level of facilities and infrastructure Mondello Park brings to an event and the Championship.
"We've had a preliminary discussion about 2014, where undoubtedly the most cost effective option for competitors would be to twin our event with the British round, which simply wasn’t possible this year.
“Ireland has a great Rallycross tradition and fans are naturally very upset, but hopefully the FIA will take control of the situation, work closer with the promoters and be seen to more actively support its own Championship," Morris added.