The UK rallying calendar for the rest of 2020 could be decimated as a consequence of a governmental decision, DirtFish has learned.
All of the UK’s major championships – including the British Rally Championship – and the Rally GB World Rally Championship round have already been canceled, but a select number of organizing committees have still been planning to run events that fall later this year.
These events include the Wyedean Stages (October 17), Carlisle Stages Rally (October 24), Malton Forest Rally (November 15) and Grizedale Stages (December 5).
But Forestry England – a government agency responsible for managing and promoting the nation’s forests – is understood to be weighing up whether to allow any rally or motorcycle enduro events to commence on its land for the rest of the year in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Malton Forest Rally was canceled on Monday, acting on information supplied from its forestry liaison officer.
A statement from the organizer read: “It is with great regret that the organizing committee of the Malton Forest Rally have to announce that due to a decision by Forestry England we are unable to run the event this year.
“We are absolutely gutted to have to cancel this year’s event, but we hope we’ll see you on Sunday November 7 2021. Stay safe everyone.”
Rallies and other similar events had already been outlawed on land owned by the Forestry Commission, the parent agency of Forestry England, until October 1 at the very least, forcing the Galloway Hills Rally in Scotland – the event that was supposed to conclude the BRC season – to be shifted back six weeks from September 19 to October 31.
DirtFish reached out to the Malton Forest organizer for clarification, and a spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday: “We were aware of the fact there was always a possibility [that we couldn’t run an event] but we had to carry on regardless effectively.
“Because if we didn’t and then on October 1 they had said, ‘Yes, we can hold rallies’, we wouldn’t have had time to organize it.
“We had everybody in place, everything that we needed in place, we were fully geared up as if everything was happening but on Monday our forest liaison officer we’d been in touch with, she came back from her annual leave and said unfortunately Forestry England won’t be issuing any permits for any events to take place this year.
“Hopefully in 2021 we can forge ahead.”
No official communication has yet been made by Forestry England, but DirtFish understands a final decision is expected next week.
Next weekend’s M-Sport Return to Rally Stages is exempt from the situation as the Greystoke forest facility it will utilize is a private forest owned by M-Sport.
The Galloway Hills Rally – despite its date change – also remains on course to run on October 31 as the Galloway Forest Park that houses the stages is operated by Forestry and Land Scotland, not Forestry England.
If Forestry England opts to outlaw rallying for the remainder of the year, the only other events likely to run in England apart from the M-Sport Stages will be single-venues rallies that are part of the Circuit Rally Championship.
There will be rounds at Oulton Park and Cadwell Park in November and Donington Park in December before five further events at the start of 2021. This series is unusual in that its schedule straddles two calendar years, like Formula E.
England is not the only nation looking barren for rallying though, with the situation looking no brighter across the Irish Sea.
The Wexford Stages, poised to run on September 5-6, was postponed until further notice last week and a recent ruling from Ireland’s governing body Motorsport Ireland had already prohibited anyone from travelling overseas to Ireland to contest the event.
A new rally sprint series had been set to kick off at Irish race track Mondello Park this weekend too, but a statement from the circuit confirmed that due to regional COVID-19 restrictions, circuit activity has been suspended for two weeks.
Until last week, events in Belgium looked like a good option for UK competitors too, but the nation’s rising number of coronavirus cases has prompted the UK government to add Belgium to the 14-day quarantine list, meaning any driver that decides to go over and compete will have to isolate for two weeks on their return.