There’s mounting concern that this year’s World Rally Championship could be concluded at the finish of Rally Italy in Alghero on Sunday afternoon.
Ypres Rally officials are adamant there are no issues with next month’s proposed WRC finale, but rising coronavirus cases are understood to be increasing pressure on all events in the region. The organizers of the Tour of Flanders cycle race have made changes to their route to avoid the Grote Market – the service park for the WRC event.
Parallel to those issues, the WRC Promoter and FIA are working frantically to conclude a last-minute agreement with the governing body of Italian motorsport (ACI) and the Monza circuit to include December’s Monza Rally as a seventh or eighth round.
DirtFish understands there is a considerable difference between what the Italian organizers are prepared to pay for a second WRC round of the season (as well as Rally Italia, which runs this week in Sardinia) and the requirements of the series stakeholders.
The teams have already made it clear they want a decision on whether Monza runs before round six starts in Alghero at 0545 Friday.
And sources suggest it could take until that moment to reach agreement.
“Both sides are working really hard on this,” said the source, “but the whole picture is a little bit tricky right now. The balance of power is shifting and obviously the demand for Monza would rise were anything happen – and I’m not suggesting it will – to Belgium and Ypres.
“The timeline on this thing is incredibly tight and there’s an element to all sides feeling the ball sits firmly in the other’s court.”
A senior official in Ypres organizers, told DirtFish: “We have no problem with the Belgian government or the regions. We are very confident the event will run.”
Beyond the rising coronavirus numbers, the increasing restrictions on travel around Europe was another cause for concern.
Sebastien Ogier talked of his worries about Ypres, saying: “I haven’t had any rumor or information in terms of the actual rally, it’s just a general viewpoint that the country is classed as a, I don’t know how you would call it, a red zone, a risk zone.
“And I know that, for example, my wife is going there next weekend for the DTM and the Germans, by and large, are unable to send anyone, it’s forbidden.
“So, I say to myself that it’ll be difficult to do it.
“Someone like Hyundai, who are based in Germany, it might be difficult for them, in terms of logistics getting there. But I think we’re still in an unknown position.”
Ogier was quick to add that he was keen to see as many WRC rounds as possible running this year.
“Like I said in Turkey, from a personal point of view, the more we do the better it will be. I’m not the kind of guy who says: “OK, I’m at the top of the standings, let’s just do five and that’s fine.”
A decision on Monza is coming imminently and preparations for the Ypres Rally continue unabated. While a World Rally Champion will not be crowned on Sunday night, there’s potential that this could be the final act of a troubled 2020 WRC.
These kind of stories are the last thing we want to be writing now. But DirtFish is here to report the word and reflect the opinion and the mood of the service park (even though coronavirus restrictions keep us out of there for the moment).
And it’s entirely possible that both Belgium and Monza run to provide an eight-round series.
There just wasn’t a huge amount of optimism for such a scenario on Thursday morning.
As discussed time and again, the biggest problem the WRC faces is the roaming nature of the sport itself. As WRC Promoter chief Simon Larkin said in the summer, he’s jealous of any venue that can close itself off to fans and run in the sort of self-contained way which is allowing the Formula 1 season to unfold currently.
Monza would offer such a scenario, but there’s some significant financial bridges to be built before we can consider ourselves on the road to northern Italy in December.