It’s almost as if TS Eliot was there with us. Like he was standing in the service park watching the near-blind panic as Europeans went through the gears to get back across the Atlantic before borders closed.
That was León, México, March 15 last year. The final day of the third round of the World Rally Championship had been canceled as the world went into a COVID-induced meltdown.
Rally México wouldn’t – couldn’t – return this year.
The government stepped in and provided funding for Rally Guanajuato in August. This scaled down version had all the right ingredients: that stunning GTO street stage, Alfaro, Derramadero, El Brinco and, of course, El Chocolate. The stage was perfect, just the cast was missing.
The hope was that this event would bridge the gap before a WRC return in 2022. October’s calendar announcement dashed that hope.
Rally director Patrick Suberville’s not one for hyperbole. He’s never seen the need. That’s what happens when you run Rally México.
Two decades ago, the Mexican dream of bringing the World Rally Championship to León began. Suberville and former RAC Rally clerk of the course Malcolm Neill educated an inexperienced organizing team and showed the world what could be done in a region and a country with no discernible rallying history.
Admittedly, the rally was a touch rough around the edges in the early days, but Guanajuato has become the benchmark for atmosphere, ambiance and action.
And now? Now it could be gone for good.
You’ll have noticed the Americas are absent. This year, for the first time since 1995, there was no need for the WRC to fly the Atlantic.
There’s no Argentina. No Chile. No Mexico.
I thought we were in. We survived with the government’s help this year, but it will be impossible to do this again next yearRally México director Patrick Suberville
“It could be the end for us,” Suberville told DirtFish.
“I can understand the situation for the WRC Promoter and for the teams. The situation comes from the problem of the pandemic still lingering on. Everything in the first semester next year will be affected.
“If we were going to run in our position as the third round, the teams would have been putting their kit – all the spare parts they need for the cars – on the boat across the Atlantic in January. This is the other issue: we have completely new cars for 2022 and it’s a lot to ask for the teams to make a complete set of spares to put on the boat.
“It’s all difficult. Complicated. We talked about moving to the end of April or May, but that didn’t work either.”
There was concern about Rally México when early versions of the calendar were spied at the end of the summer, but Suberville wasn’t worried. Only events with confirmed contracts were on the schedule and Rally México goes year-on-year.
“I thought we were in,” he said. “It’s going to be strange with nothing in Latin America at all.
“We survived with the government’s help this year; it will be impossible to do this again next year. We made a lot of guys redundant, we only kept the essential people – the people we have been training for 20 years. We survived, but now I honestly don’t know what we’re going to do.
“When we got this news, Gilles [Spitalier, fellow Rally México director] and me, we spent a day on the phone to the sports representative from the government. What could we tell him?
“Honestly, we’re missing from the WRC for two years… I really think this could be the end for México.”
Reflecting on the chaotic scenes that emerged from that shortened 2020 Rally México and pondering the future of one of the best rounds of the WRC ever, Eliot would pause momentarily.
“This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.”