The European Rally Championship’s planned season-opening Azores Rally has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Rally organizer Grupo Desportivo Comercial decided to postpone the March 26-28 event in the wake of a meeting of the Council of the Azores government on Wednesday evening.
Following that meeting, the council recommended that all events scheduled to take place on the mid-Atlantic archipelago in March should be postponed.
The ERC said a revised date has been put to the FIA for approval and “will be communicated as quickly as possible”.
DirtFish understands this is likely to fall in September.
The Azores’ launch event went ahead on Monday as planned as organisers had guarantees that the rally could go ahead, while the entries deadline closed as expected the following day.
Upwards of 30 ERC drivers were expected to contest the event, while entries were also expected from the Portuguese national and Azorean championships.
A statement from the championship added: “The thoughts of all those involved in the FIA European Rally Championship and organisation of the 55th Azores Rallye are with those affected by the coronavirus outbreak”.
The next scheduled ERC event is the Canary Islands Rally, which is also located on an isolated archipelago in the Atlantic ocean, and is due to run over the May 7-9 weekend.
World Rally Championship podium finisher Craig Breen is among the drivers to have signed up for the 2020 ERC season.
Breen is slated to drive a Hyundai i20 R5 under the Team MRF Tyres banner, as he will use the Indian firm’s tires during the campaign. That entry will be run by Italian outfit BRC Racing.
He will be joined under the Team MRF banner by Finnish driver Emil Lindholm, who will drive a Škoda Fabia R5 evo.
Among their competition will be 2018 ERC champion Alexey Lukyanuk, who will compete in a Saintéloc Junior Team-run Citroën C3 R5 for a second year in a row. Lukyanuk has swapped co-drivers for 2020, with Dmitriy Eremeev taking over from fellow Russian Alexey Arnautov.
Callum Devine (Hyundai i20 R5), Erik Cais (Ford Fiesta R5 MkII) and Efrén Llarena (Citroën C3 R5) will all compete in the ERC1 Junior category, as will Miko Marczyk.
The Polish champion will drive a Škoda Fabia R5 with backing from the PKN Orlen firm, which supports Alfa Romeo Formula 1 reserve driverand 2020 DTM racer Robert Kubica, as well as Škoda Poland.