Colin Clark: WRC should scrap European start for 2021

Australia and New Zealand could provide a far more solid foundation for the 2021 schedule


I really can’t wait to see the back of this year. Roll on January 1 so we can get cracking with Monte Carlo Rally planning and bid a very good riddance to this god awful curse that’s been 2020. Because it’s all going to be OK and life will go back to being normal at one minute past midnight on January 1, 2021 the first won’t it?

Yeah right!

This horrible virus is a long way off being beaten and the future disruption and potential ramifications for our sport are far from being clear. I mentioned the Monte. Well, I’m not booking my flights and accommodation yet, that’s for sure.

The thing about this second wave that’s wreaking destruction and destroying lives across Europe right now is that it shows us just how blasé and complacent we were when we came out of the initial lockdown. We embraced our freedoms, which looking back on it, now all seems a little reckless.

So the one thing I think I can fairly safely predict is that we won’t come out of this second wave with quite such an enthusiastic, carefree, everything is back to normal attitude.

And this is where I start talking rallying again. Because I think maybe we’ve missed a trick with the proposed 2021 calendar.

Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin

Photo: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Listen, I can absolutely understand the thinking behind front-loading the calendar with European events, overseas travel will be mighty difficult before the middle of next year at the earliest. But I’m really not so sure that we can even plan European events in the first six months of 2021 with any degree of certainty. As I said, this second wave is hitting hard and there is absolutely no way that anyone is going to risk a third wave by returning to a business as usual situation.

So what do we do? Just sit tight, cross our fingers and hope for the best? Well, we could do that and quite possibly write off 2021 as a championship year.

Or we could think outside the box and see just what is possible.

So here’s a question for you. Where is the safest place in the world right now if you want to avoid COVID-19? Hands down, no argument, get on a plane and head to Australia and New Zealand.

OK, I know it’s not quite as easy as that but it is possible and it is potentially a solution to some pretty choppy waters that lie ahead for the World Rally Championship as it tries desperately to navigate the COVID-19 storms sweeping across Europe.

Australia and New Zealand are two countries with outstanding rallying history and pedigree. And perhaps more importantly, both have organizational structures that are without a doubt, amongst the very best in the world. Ask them to give you a world-class rally, and they will deliver. So why not ask them to give you two world-class rallies each?

Hayden Paddon

Photo: Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Content Pool

I’d take Coffs Harbour and the Rally of South Australia from our Aussie friends and the Otago Rally and Rally Whangerei from their Kiwi cousins. And if you want to add a touch of the black stuff why not talk to the guys at Targa and see if possibly the greatest tarmac rally in the world, Targa Tasmania, couldn’t be included?

Fanciful thinking you might say and I’d agree with you. But far from impossible. Yes, it would mean the whole WRC circus decamping to the Antipodeans for three months but desperate times demand desperate measures. What I do know is that there is an appetite for attracting world-class sporting events to these safe waters during the current crisis.

It would require a massive commitment from all involved but that is the reality of living through these hard times.

Some might argue that running the first half of your calendar in the wrong time zones doesn’t work – I’d say embrace that challenge and see where it takes you. What we do know is that both Australia and New Zealand have delivered in the past some of the best social media coverage rallying has ever enjoyed and for me, that’s a mighty exciting opportunity right there.

So we do our quarantine down under, then kickstart our season with four or five fantastic events across Australia and New Zealand.

Then what?

The icing on the cake; we head north to Japan and South Korea. I’m pretty certain you won’t hear too many complaints about time zones from Toyota and Hyundai with this scenario.

Sebastien Ogier

Photo: Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Content Pool

So have we got it wrong? Should we be looking to head to the safer part of the world for the first half of 2021? Well as mentioned, a massive commitment would be required from all involved – but the reward would be well worth the effort. We could easily be heading to Rally Finland in August with seven rounds already completed and a championship guaranteed.

Or we sit back with everything crossed and hope for the best.

Well not me, I’ve always been one to think outside the box and I kinda like this pearl of wisdom from that greatest of English bards, William Shakespeare.

“Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.”

Yes it’s fanciful, yes it’s difficult, yes it would be inconvenient and yes it’s highly unlikely, but right now we need ideas, and this one could just about be workable.