A seven-event schedule is all that is left of the 2020 World Rally Championship following the cancellation of two key events.
Rally Finland, always the jewel in the World Rally crown, is cancelled.
So, too, is Rally New Zealand despite a massive effort to have the event returned to the world title calendar in the ongoing tussle with Rally Australia for the Asia-Pacific leg of the series.
The series is now set to resume in Turkey in September, with only the events in Germany, Britain and Japan to follow.
“We have successfully run three rounds to date, so the running of the four events above would take the championship to seven rounds,” WRC spokesman, Mark Wilford, tells Race News.
But he says there could still be revisions and potential additions to the truncated championship.
“Rally Italia Sardegna was postponed from this weekend, and we are working with the organisers there to identify a possible new date. In general, once all options have been identified and studied then we will confirm the shape of the calendar for the rest of the season,” says Wilford.
World Rally faces far bigger challenges than almost any other motorsport series because of the number of countries it visits, and the size of the event footprint in each country. It cannot be quarantined in a stadium location like Formula One or MotoGP.
It’s also a very costly championship, although Toyota and Hyundai have been fighting a torrid battle in the series with Ford sniping through the efforts of the M-Sport squad in Britain.
The cancellation of Finland was a huge blow for the series and the third event lost from the 2020 season, after Portugal, the born-again Safari in Africa, and NZ.
Finland is a rally-mad country and, although COVID-19 restrictions are being eased, there is no indication yet on when foreign visitors will be allowed.
That’s the same problem as New Zealand, which is in lockdown with closed borders.
But the WRC promoter has not given up on 2020.
“We continue to monitor the evolving situation around the pandemic and Government restrictions. We are working with the FIA and individual event organisers regarding our calendar options,” says Wilford.
“Our challenges are the same as those of any other global sport. We have a duty of care to all our stakeholders, including fans, drivers, teams, media, suppliers and others to protect not only ourselves but also the wider community. This remains our key focus.
“Our next round is scheduled for Turkey on 24-27 September, to be followed by rounds in Germany (15-18 October), GB (29 October-1 November) and Japan (19-22 November).”