The European Rally Championship season will conclude on Canary Islands Rally later this month after it was announced that December’s Spa Rally has been canceled “following thorough health and safety assessment”.
Spa Rally is usually run as part of the Belgian Rally Championship and had been scheduled to run earlier this year prior to the coronavirus pandemic. It was canceled and then reinstated as an ERC-qualifying event. However, the prospects of the event running were not looking strong when the World Rally Championship called off Ypres Rally at the end of last month as the rate of recorded COVID-19 cases increased across Belgium.
Sophie Delettre, the town mayor of Spa, and Liège province’s governor Hervvé Jamar decided that its current lockdown position meant it would not be able to justify hosting the ERC.
“Despite the excellent work and all the professionalism of [rally organizer] DG Sport I found myself obliged to request the postponement of the Spa Rally,” said Delettre.
“The health crisis we are presently experiencing, with the dangers it poses, impels me to be extremely cautious. I am deeply saddened by this health situation, which affects all our activities. Tourism, culture and motorsport are part of the DNA of Spa, and I wholeheartedly hope we will be able to resume our lives with peace of mind following this second wave of the epidemic.”
What this means for the ERC is a change of stakes in the title battles. For the overall crown, it’s now only a two-horse race between Saintéloc Junior Team’s Alexey Lukyanuk and the chasing Oliver Solberg, with Hyundai Customer Racing’s Gregoire Munster pushed out of contention.
He still leads the ERC1 Junior points though, and with Solberg as his only rival for that crown now. Efrén Llarena is the unlucky driver who’s had his title hopes ended by Spa Rally’s cancellation.
Estonian talent Ken Torn is now confirmed as the champion of ERC3 Junior (for drivers born in 1993 or later), with Pep Bassas unable to overtake him in the points in the Canary Islands when only the best four scores out of five contribute to the end-of-season tally. Their fight to be the top driver in Rally4 machinery has also now been decided, with Torn the overall ERC3 champion too.
ERC Co-ordinator Jean-Baptiste Ley said of the early end to the season: “We stand as one with DG Sport in accepting there was no choice other than to postpone the planned running of this year’s Spa Rally to 2021. Christian Jupsin and his team at DG Sport did everything possible to keep the Spa Rally on the 2020 calendar but the health and safety of all must remain the priority.
“While we share the sense of disappointment and the difficulties this decision causes, we must reflect on what has been achieved in 2020 in terms of what will be a five-event calendar during these challenging and unprecedented times.
“Our gratitude goes to everyone who made this possible, in particular the FIA Rally Commission. The thoughts of the ERC family are with all those people suffering due to COVID-19.”
The Canary Islands Rally will not only crown the new overall ERC champion but mark the return of the reigning champion too. Chris Ingram will be back in action in a Renault Clio RSR Rally5.