Junior WRC team director Maciej Woda has told DirtFish that a series champion will still be crowned, even if the new final round – next month’s Monza Rally – is canceled.
This year’s JWRC calendar has been significantly altered from the original schedule that was unveiled 12 months ago, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic. The series was supposed to head to South America for the first time for Rally Chile in April before that event was curtailed by political unrest.
COVID-19 then complicated the remainder of the season following the opening round in Sweden, with Rally Finland and Germany canceled and Rally Italy postponed. Rally Estonia joined the WRC and became the second Junior WRC round and last month’s rescheduled Rally Italy becoming round three in Germany’s absence.
Ypres Rally Belgium had then been added as a fourth and final round this month, but its cancelation pegged the championship back to three rounds – two short of the original five.
Woda told DirtFish of his plans for JWRC to head to Monza, prior to it being announced on Thursday, as the series looked to recuperate as many rounds as possible.
“If the rally is happening then we are going there,” Woda said. “We’re getting ready, we were getting ready for Rally Ypres so the cars will be ready and we are planning to go there.
“At this moment, as far as I know, the organizers, the promoter and FIA, everybody’s working flat out to make sure that this rally happens and we can finish the championship that way.
“But yeah, I mean we all learn this year that nothing can be taken for granted as far as the COVID situation is concerned and anything’s possible so fingers crossed, and I keep all fingers crossed that this rally will go ahead and we will have a good final round of the Junior WRC this year.”
Woda admitted it was a shame to not be heading to Ypres as he thinks it would have been “by far the most unpredictable events the juniors have done over a number of years”.
“I would say that Monte Carlo is probably more predictable than Ypres would be at this time of the year because nobody really except let’s say Thierry Neuville in WRC and maybe some guys in the other cars have got experience in Ypres Rally,” he continued.
“Nobody has really got experience with Ypres Rally in this time of the year. With the night stages for juniors, I think it would be [an] all-new challenge.
“To be honest from one side I was really worried to go there but on the other side I was very excited because I think it could be a very good event and it can be a great challenge and it can be a challenge where we see who is actually thinking, who is actually coming with a strategy and so on, more than on the other events.”
Ypres’ late addition to the schedule had salvaged a four-round campaign which Monza’s inclusion is now set to do, but there remains the possibility that – as the majority of Europe re-enters various lockdown procedures – the rally may not run as planned.
Woda “really, really, really hopes” this won’t be the case and the 2020 Junior World Rally Champion will be crowned on the stages, rather than at home. Mārtiņš Sesks would win the championship if it was called now, but it’s still very much up for grabs if the season continues.
Sesks holds just a 10-point advantage over Tom Kristensson, with Sami Pajari four points further drift, and there’s one-and-a-half times the usual championship and stage points up for grabs on the final round.
“We have to crown the champion but I really, really, really hope that this won’t be the case because I think everybody – and this includes Junior WRC, includes main WRC and so on – wants to know that they are coming to the last round and want to know that they have a fight for it, not just sitting at home and finding out I’m a champion or I’m a loser or whatever,” Woda said.
“I really, really pray that the rally would happen but should it not happen we will have a champion already.”
Next year’s Junior WRC will again be a single-make championship for the Ford Fiesta Rally4 but the calendar is yet to be nailed down. Woda said “we’re looking to start in Sweden again because it’s been a good event for a few years already” but the rest is still to be decided.
A final calendar will be revealed later this month but Woda confessed it may not represent the actual schedule that runs in 2021.
“We will need to confirm something, we will need to announce the calendar in November, but I think it will be a big small text saying subject to changes,” he said.
“I think it will be exactly the same for the main WRC, with the calendar; I was actually reading some interview with [Andrea] Adamo and I think he’s been using a few swear words there and so on but I agree with him, nobody can really confirm anything these days so let’s see.
“We will announce our plan, but what will happen we will know more next year.”