The next two rounds of the World Rally Championship – Rally Finland and Rally New Zealand – have been canceled.
The decision has been taken amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and associated restrictions around the world.
Official communication of the Finland decision came during Wednesday, shortly after DirtFish had revealed the cancellations on its social channels, while the New Zealand news is set to be officially announced on Thursday.
The next scheduled round of the WRC is now Rally Turkey, starting on September 24.
Although movement restrictions had been eased in Finland ahead of some other countries, organizers were well aware that the wider international situation meant their early-August event might be difficult to achieve in 2020.
A statement from the event said: “Although the situation regarding COVID-19 in Finland and internationally has improved, there are too many ongoing factors with regard to health and safety risks with organising Neste Rally Finland, given the event is only two months away.
“Together with the unknown progress of Covid-19, there are other major uncertainties affecting this decision.
“For example, the lack of information on whether current restrictions imposed by the state on public events will continue after July, and how foreign participants, teams and spectators will be able to safely travel to Finland.”
Rally Finland had been planning a special celebration of its 70th anniversary this year, and promoter Jani Backman said “it’s clear that this naturally is devastating news for all of us, in many different ways” even though the organizers had been bracing themselves for making the decision.
“By canceling the event this year, we want to show responsibility towards each and every one of the stakeholders as well as the whole society,” he added.
“Health and wellbeing are always a priority.”
Clerk of the course Kai Tarkiainen said postponement had been strongly considered but ultimately it was concluded that wouldn’t be sufficient.
“We also investigated the options of postponing the event this year, but after evaluating this option, the amount of unknowns and risks unfortunately directed us to cancel,” he said.
“We would like to thank all the volunteers who are already committed to the event and have been working alongside our professional organising team ever since last autumn – we will get through this and come back next year.”
The cancellation of Rally New Zealand – which was due to rejoin the WRC calendar this year after a seven-season absence – is not a surprise given that the country took one of the strictest approaches to limiting the coronavirus spread from the start of the crisis.
Finland and New Zealand join Argentina, Portugal, Italy and the Safari as 2020 WRC rounds canceled or postponed as a direct result of the pandemic.
WRC competition was halted after what should have been day two of Rally México in mid-March as the severity of the situation became clear.