The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has claimed its first major national championship with the organizer of the Brian Green Property New Zealand Rally Championship calling time on the 2020 series.
The first two rounds of the series in Otago and Whangarei were postponed, but series coordinator Blair Bartels fears the financial impact of the country’s COVID-19 lockdown could keep entries low and make events unsustainable.
The development comes just a week after the organizer of the International Rally of Whangarei had talked of being capable of mobilising the event within six weeks of a government green light for sporting events.
With international entries for the Asia Pacific Rally Championship counter potentially compromised by government regulations on visitors entering the country and the end of the national championship, New Zealand’s second biggest rally of the season faces a bleak future.
Bartels said: “The economic fallout will be significant, and it is just not practical to think entry numbers will be strong enough this season to make events sustainable at a national championship level, especially with so many of our competitors being small business owners.
“It was a really difficult call to make, but one we know is best for the long-term health of our sport. We love rallying; it is something we are super-passionate about and it is really hard to make a call that means there will be less of it this year but we have to be pragmatic through these unprecedented times.
“There will still be club events and there may be an appetite for a couple of one-off events and that opens up some exciting possibilities.”
The Irish Tarmac Rally Championship also canceled its 2020 season last month.
Bartels confirmed Brian Green Property Group had already renewed its title sponsorship to give stability to the series into 2021.
The Rally New Zealand World Rally Championship counter (pictured above) was also scheduled to host the fifth and final round of the national series.
While the lack of domestic championship status won’t help the Auckland-based event set for September, insiders point out that competitors from up and down New Zealand would redouble their efforts to tackle what is reckoned to be the last WRC qualifier on the North Island roads for some time.