Organisers have confirmed that the predicted return of the WRC season in Rally New Zealand will no longer take place in 2020. Event organisers Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) confirmed on june 4th the cancellation of Rally New Zealand. The events CEO, Mike Goldstein stated “It became clear that with our borders closed to international travel and the logistics required to host thousands of international visitors as part of the World Rally Championship, that the September 2020 date was not practical.”
New Zealand has effectively eradicated Covid19 from its population, but with tight restrictions on travel in and out of the country, the logistics involved are untenable with regards to holding the event in its September date. It has also been confirmed that no replacement date will be sought for the 2020 season, which won’t see New Zealand return to the calendar until 2021.
Of late, WRC news has been thin on the ground due to the Covid19 pandemic. The WRC season was set to get back underway August 6th at Rally Finland, arguably the blue riband event on the WRC calendar. Despite improvements in the current health situation, both in Finland and globally, the decision was taken by organisers AKK Sports felt that there are still too many risk factors moving forward with the event in August.
AKK Sports released its statement June 3rd, stating “Together with the unknown progress of Covid-19, there are other major uncertainties affecting this decision. For example, the lack of information on whether current restrictions imposed by the state on public events will continue after July, and how foreign participants, teams and spectators will be able to safely travel to Finland.”
AKK Sports have gone on to state that there will be no possibility of the event running later this season, meaning Rally Finland will not feature on the calendar again until 2021; A year which will mark the 70th running of Rally Finland, which organisers wish to direct their resources towards.
Rally Portugal, which was due to be rescheduled to a later date in 2020, most likely on a date between Rally Germany & Wales Rally GB in October also won’t run until 2021. The reasoning was similar to the announcement from AKK Sports today, with the ongoing Covid19 epidemic meaning health and safety conditions for running the event were not satisfied to run the event safely.
At this moment in time, WRC looks set to return to action in Turkey on September 24th, there has been no announcement that the event has been cancelled at this stage.
In other news, Sebastien Ogier has stated that he may push back his plan to retire from WRC competition until the end of the 2021 season, due to the Covid19 affected 2020 season. It is already public knowledge that Tommi Makkinen is trying to persuade Ogier to continue for another season with Toyota.
M-Sport meanwhile have confirmed that despite the ongoing Covid19 pandemic, elements of the programme for the new 2022 regulation WRC car have been fast tracked, due to the additional free time enabled by the WRC season not running at this time.
M-Sport are targeting a testing debut for the new car in early 2021. The only details known about the new car so far is that the current 1.6 4 cylinder turbo engine will be used as a base, with a hybrid system developed by Compact Dynamics. Ford & M-Sport have not yet confirmed which model the new WRC car will be based off. The Ford Fiesta has served as Ford’s WRC steed since 2011 in 2 different generations, rumours have persisted that Ford will use the new Puma Crossover platform, effectively a Fiesta with raised suspension and a larger body with roadgoing variants already utilising hybrid tech. Other rumours have suggested a return to the larger Focus platform, but until M-Sport and Ford confirm, it is nothing more than speculation.
Hyundai & Toyota have already begun development on their new cars, while Toyota’s 2021 Yaris was spied testing in Sweden prior to Covid19 restrictions in February & March.
Until next time, stay safe.