Olympics’ fate will influence Rally Japan going ahead

If the Tokyo Olympics goes ahead, so will Japan's WRC return. If not, don't expect the season to conclude in the East


If Tokyo’s Summer Olympics go ahead in July, then the World Rally Championship will be returning to Japan for the first time since 2010.

Rally Japan is scheduled to conclude this season in November, but rising COVID-19 cases have again cast both major sporting events into doubt.

FIA rally director Yves Matton has told DirtFish if the Olympics get the green light, he expects the Nagoya-based WRC counter to run as planned from November 11.

“For Japan, we are working,” he said. “The sporting task force is working with the organizers as usual. For the moment, the main thing we have to follow is what will happen with the Olympic Games. This is the signal which will tell us about Rally Japan.

“If the Olympics happen on a normal way, it will only confirm we will be in Japan in November.”

Rally Japan WRC

This year’s Rally Japan, which recently confirmed title sponsorship from engineering software firm FORUM8, will run an all-asphalt itinerary in the Aichi and Gifu prefectures.

Japanese WRC star Takamoto Katsuta said during last week’s Rally Portugal that the staging of the Olympics – scheduled to start on July 23 – was still being debated in his homeland.

“It’s quite a tricky situation for the moment, and we need to see if Olympics will happen or not,” the Toyota driver told DirtFish. “Olympics are affecting a lot for Rally Japan, for sure. But if it happens, I’m very, very excited for that.

“I’m trying to push as much as possible and more than ever, as, of course, for a home rally with a lot of fans and family, I’m maximum push to be there.”

The International Olympic Committee’s vice-president John Coates said the Games would go ahead even under the country’s current state of emergency.

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Returning WRC fixture will use a route very similar to one planned for 2020

That state of emergency has been implemented due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, but those numbers have since started to fall and the country’s status will be reviewed at the end of the month.

“We’ve successfully seen five sports hold their test events during the state of emergency,” Coates said.

“All of the plans that we have in place to protect the safety and security of athletes and the people of Japan are based around the worst possible circumstances, so the answer [to the question of whether the Games could take place during a state of emergency] is absolutely yes.”

A recent poll showed 70% of the Japanese population was in favour of the Games not running for fear of various strains being imported from around the world.