The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the governing body of global motor sports, yesterday rejected a proposal for Abu Dhabi to join the 2012 calendar of the World Rally Championship.
The announcement came as a shock to those close to the Emirate's bid, who believed Abu Dhabi's position on next year's schedule was all but secure. The event had already been published on the provisional calendar for 2012 and was expected to act as the season-ending race.
But, following yesterday's World Motor Sports Council meeting in Barcelona, the race has been withdrawn. Abu Dhabi was instead invited to stage a candidate event - a one-time trial event to show a city is ready to host a full-fledged race.
"Abu Dhabi, previously published on the calendar, subject to approval of the Event Business Plan, has been removed from the 2012 calendar," read an FIA statement. "The organiser is invited to submit a proposal to run a candidate event for possible future inclusion in the series."
Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, who in 2007 signed an agreement to become an official destination partner of the WRC, is also the title-sponsor of the BP-Ford rally team. The Emirate has long been linked with joining the calendar and was widely expected to make its host debut next season.
Abu Dhabi will now need to decide whether to invest in a candidate rally next season in hopes of being included on the calendar in 2013.