A dramatically different World Rally Championship will be contested through the back half of 2020 as flyaway races fall to COVID-19.
Estonia has been promoted to world title status with Belgium and Croatia also on standby as traditional events, including the classic Rally Finland and Rally GB, fall victim to the pandemic.
The latest cancellation, joining New Zealand, is Argentina.
The only significant survivor from the original 2020 calendar is Rally Italia, which has been moved to the end of October after being postponed in June.
Estonia will host the WRC teams from September 4-6 as it becomes the 33rd country to stage a round since the series began in 1973.
The calendar then sweeps through Turkey, Germany and Italy before a planned finale in Japan in November, with the WRC Promoter promising a minimum of eight title rounds.
But the Ypres Rally in Belgium is on standby from October 2-4 and Croatia could also be added if there are extra interruptions.
Estonia will be a gravel event and has previous WRC form after running as a promotional event in 2019.
It is also the home event for defending world champion, Ott Tanak, which should ensure plenty of interest and a big spectator turn-out.
The announcement of the event was attended by the country’s prime minister, Juri Ratas, with confirmation it will be based in Tartu in the east of the country with two legs on Saturday and Sunday.
“Rally Estonia will be re-opening the season in September and I know the Estonian Autosport Union and organising team are putting all their efforts to deliver an event to world championship standards from an already solid foundation,” says Oliver Ciesla, the managing director of the WRC Promoter.
“Also, extensive work was made with ACI and organisers of Rally Italia Sardegna to reschedule the event and I am happy that they could find a workable slot at the end of October for this much-awaited encounter.
“Preparations for these rounds are now in full swing while paying the greatest attention to key planning recommendations for mass gatherings in the current Covid-19 context.”
Sebastian Ogier currently leads the WRC standings for Toyota with 62 points after full events in Monte Carlo and Sweden, as well as the shortened Rally Mexico, ahead of Elfyn Evans on 52 in another Toyota Yaris and Thierry Neuville on 42 with the best of the Hyundai i20 WRC contenders.
“Today’s restart announcement sends a clear signal that the 2020 WRC is back in business,” says Ciesla from Estonia.
“Today’s news allows the WRC to restart at an appropriate time and ensure a season worthy of world championship status.”
The 2020 calendar is:
|1||Monte-Carlo||23 – 26 January|
|2||Sweden||13 – 16 February|
|3||Mexico||12 – 15 March|
|4||Estonia||4 – 6 September|
|5||Turkey||24 – 27 September|
|6||Germany||15 – 18 October|
|7||Italy||29 October – 1 November|
|8||Japan||19 – 22 November|
* Ypres Rally, Belgium (2 – 4 October) and Croatia (date TBC).