FIA rally director Yves Matton has told DirtFish he is “fully optimistic” that the Ypres Rally will go ahead as planned next month.
Matton pointed out that the ultimate arbiters of whether any motorsport event goes ahead is the national or regional government – and currently there is no issue from the side of the Belgian authorities.
“The event has the support and, for the moment, there is no reason the event will not happen,” said Matton. “I am fully optimistic. They had an event running [with Aarova Rally Oudenaarde last weekend] and, in Belgium, they did the first event at the end of August.”
Ypres Rally is scheduled to run from November 19-22 and the organizers are to work to the usual timetable for putting a rally together – the current COVID-19 pandemic is a constant concern, but it doesn’t impose any regulatory timetable.
“There’s no deadline [to know about coronavirus],” said Matton. “We know that, in this situation, unfortunately it [cancellation] can happen a few days before an event. There is no deadline.
“All I can say is that we try with the organizers and different stakeholders to try to avoid to have a government to take a decision a few days before the event.
“At the moment the last feedback was quite fresh from organizers, is that the event will happen and there is no date to say: ‘We will think about it’.”
Matton pointed to Rally Estonia to underline the importance of working with national governments. The Estonian government – under the direction of prime minister Jüri Ratas himself – did all it could to deliver the WRC to Tartu.
The vast majority of the WRC service park travelling to Estonia last month should have isolated for 14 days on arrival into the country, but an agreement brokered by Ratas ensured they were allowed to do a Covid test at the airport, isolate until the result arrived 12 hours later then continue onto the event, providing a negative result was produced.
Matton added: “The most important thing is to have support from the government. Under the normal rules for Estonia it was not possible to have an event, and it’s only thanks to the government [and] the fact that we have the Appendix S [the FIA’s regulation regarding the running of international motorsport under COVID-19 restrictions] which showcases to the government what we are doing to run an event.
“It’s because we run in a safe manner with sanitary rules that allow us to go in some countries and who allow people to go in some countries where, normally, they are not allowed to go.
“That’s the reality. If we have the support of the government, we believe events will not be canceled at the last moment.
“But, the situation, it’s moving so far and things are changing each day that it can go in a way that the government is not able to control some things and they have to take some decisions.
“I hope it will not be the case in Belgium and that we will be able to go like we are for the moment, and that we will be able to run all the events.”
Matton added that the cancellation of another high-profile Belgian event, the Condroz Rally, due to coronavirus, should not ring too many alarm bells for Ypres.
“We cannot make a proper comparison between Rallye du Condroz and Ypres Rally,” he said.
“There are a lot of different things. You cannot compare a professional organization and an amateur organization. Condroz is based more on volunteers and it’s a non-profit organization. Then the approach is quite different when you have a company that is running an event with people who are employed to do it.”