The European Rally Championship is still set to head to Portugal for its next round despite the cancellation of Rally Azores, with Rally Fafe Montelongo taking it place on the 2020 schedule on October 2-4.
Rally di Roma and Rally Liepaja have started this season, with a visit to the Portguese-owned Azores islands planned as the next part of the calendar on September 17-19.
That event had already been delayed from its original season-opening slot on March 26-28 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and two weeks ago it joined Rally Poland and Barum Rally Zlin on the list of cancellations for this year.
Azores has been on the calendar of ERC and its Intercontinental Rally Challenge predecessor continuously since 2009.
Pending FIA approval, a Portuguese round remains on the calendar via mainland event Fafe Montelongo.
Unlike the World Rally Championship round usually held in the same area, Fafe Montelongo runs on asphalt rather than gravel and is usually part of Portugal’s Northern and Classic rally championships.
Avoiding the huge crowds of Rally Portugal will be achieved by running the event entirely behind closed doors, and basing the service park in Parque da Cidade in the famous rallying town of Fafe.
“We are delighted the interest and enthusiasm of the Rally Fafe Montelongo organizing team has resulted in the event’s elevation to the FIA European Rally Championship for the first time,” said FIA ERC coordinator Jean-Baptiste Ley.
“The organising club, Demoporto and FPAK, the Portuguese ASN, are working hard to put all measures in place, including the strict COVID-19 protocol, to deliver an event that meets the requirements specified by Eurosport Events and the FIA.
“We look forward to working with a proactive partner to deliver a rally worthy of the ERC’s status. The agreement is for one year but all parties are open to expanding the partnership into future years.”
The vice-mayor of Fafe, Parcídio Summavielle, was thrilled to finally get Fafe into the ERC, having been angling for a spot prior to Azores’ cancellation.
“It is an extraordinary fact for us to have a rally of the European championship,” he said. “We never gave up on presenting a solution.
“It will be very important for the public to help us, given the circumstances we are experiencing. It is essential that there are no gatherings and we will be very strict in complying with the rules of the General Directorate of Health.
“We need the help of the public so that everything goes well, we do not want to be a bad example. I myself will pass on the stages before the drivers and if I see something wrong, there will be no problem in canceling them.”