The fate of the World Rally Championship’s winter rally will be known within the coming days as the governing body of Finnish motorsport and the organizers of the Arctic Rally seek to find a way to fund a place on the 2021 WRC schedule.
Speculation that a Rovaniemi-based event could step in to fill the calendar gap left by Rally Sweden – announced as the first 2021 WRC round to fall to rising coronavirus numbers last month – has reached fever pitch in the last week.
The Arctic Rally runs next week as the opening round of the Finnish Rally Championship with the organizing team steeling themselves for a potential WRC round a month later.
“Everybody is working very hard to make it happen right now,” AKK’s Kai Tarkiainen told DirtFish. “We have to consider the COVID-19 restrictions, but as well as that we have to work within a budget – both of these could be limiting factors. We’re talking to all the stakeholders to see what can be done and I think we should know more in the next week.”
Tarkiainen said a ‘cut and paste’ of next week’s Arctic Rally wouldn’t be possible next month.
“There are a variety of reasons why we would have to work on the route,” said Tarkiainen. “Some of the stages used on the Arctic are military roads and we can’t use those because permissions need to come earlier. And we would have to double use most of the stages because there’s simply not the number of officials and volunteers to run roads only the once. On top of that, some of the medical staff we have for Rally Finland are teachers and, while they’re on holiday in the summer, they will be busy working during the winter. That could limit what we could do on Friday.
“The plan would be to run a three-day event in the style of a WRC round. Rovaniemi’s a good city to base out of with plenty of hotels and a good infrastructure. As you can imagine, the tourist industry has been hit hard in the last 12 months, so the city is very keen to see us there.”
A Rovaniemi-based WRC round would, according to Tarkiainen be a mix of local organizers and some of the Rally Finland team bringing vast world championship experience.
“There’s still a very big question mark over this,” said Tarkiainen. “This wouldn’t be the time for a headline about Finland landing a second WRC round of the season. We know we have the experience to do it, we have people who know all about running rallies at that standard and we know we can work with the Arctic Rally team to implement this structure at a WRC standard – but we shouldn’t forget we’d be asking an awful lot of a lot of people who have just survived running their own [Arctic] rally.”
Having talked through the complexities of scrambling a WRC round on the edge of the Arctic Circle in a matter of weeks, Tarkiainen answered the question of conditions for next week’s rally.
“It should be around minus 13 for the first day of the recce,” he said, “before dropping to around minus 20 during the rally. The current snow level is around 30cm, but more is expected next week.”
Sounds like a winter rally worth fighting for to us…