As the World Rally Championship waits on the fate of its proposed Rally Monza finale, the FIA issued a 12-round calendar for next season.
Starting, as usual, with the Monte Carlo Rally, the series then moves through Sweden, Croatia, Portugal, Italy, Kenya, Estonia, Finland, GB/Northern Ireland, Chile, Spain and Japan.
Turkey, Latvia, Belgium, Argentina, Greece and Rally Monza were listed as reserves.
FIA rally director Yves Matton talks us through the thinking behind 2021.
There are no WRC rounds outside Europe until the end of June, why is that?
It’s more a strategy now to say we believe that, in the first part of the year, we will be still in a situation where we will not be able to travel outside Europe and we believe that, in the second part of the year, we will be able to travel.
How confident are you of the events outside of Europe?
How can I answer to this? It’s more a strategy than really. There are still questions about this year, then I have some difficulty to give you a guarantee that an event we put in the calendar in nine months will happen. It’s only a strategy to say in the six first months we are unable to go outside Europe and we hope we will be able to travel outside Europe after that.
You think [in] December 2020 it will be finished with COVID situation? There are six events that are there as a spare event, it’s first time for me I see a calendar with six [reserve] events. It never happen before – [before, a] calendar was a calendar with no spare event.
Talking of the reserve events, any idea when they might be able to run if there is space?
Honestly, it’s not clear no. But all the events have their own slot and they have difficulty to change their slot for different reasons: it can be location of the HQ, it can be holidays, it can be a lot of things. We all know what are the normal days for these events and what are geo-logistic constraints. I am convinced that there are not so many possibilities for these events to run outside their normal slot, but for sure when we will be in the situation where we will have to fill in a slot, I hope not, but if it happens, we will ask to all the events if they are able to fill in this slot. But I’m not sure, concerning the events [and] a great flexibility on their date; maybe a few weeks but not a few months, I don’t think.
In the summer the teams made it clear they wanted only 10 rounds, but now they have 12. Why?
You know it’s always a compromise between the different stakeholders and at the end it needs to be affordable for everyone and in a business case for everyone. And, for sure, we agree with the manufacturers that for the promotion side and for interest of championship we need 12, and they agree with us that 12 is number that they are able to fulfill. And we are all on the same boat and, at the end, it’s always a compromise. Ten was the minimum figure and at the end 12 could work for everyone.
You have to take into account on the number of events, the mix of the events. We have a 12-event calendar, but with nine events in Europe and this help also manufacturers a lot. That’s also why, at the end, they agree to have 12 with this number of events in Europe.
We see a British or Northern Irish round listed, what can you tell us about that?
It’s only my personal view, but I’m not sure it’s clear from Motorsport UK where they will go.
Have you been to an event in Northern Ireland?
Yeah I went there, I go to Ulster. I can only say it on what I have seen and it’s maybe because [of being born in] Belgium, that you have the proper roads to do a nice event.
Good to see the potential for the Acropolis Rally to return…
In Greece there is hard interest from the government to have back an event. And we know that the government will help us to do an event. We are starting from scratch and today nothing is done on our side. But, like I told you before, we know that the government involvement will be very important, it is the reason we give them a chance to be a spare event but we will be able to say something when we will have something on the table.
Monza’s on that reserve list as well?
If they have a proper event why not to have them back in 2021?
But no Germany, not even as a reserve?
If they are not on the list then there is no proposal on the table to be on the list. It’s not the FIA who submit the proposal for a commitment from the country it’s the country who exchange with the promoter to be part of the calendar. There is no proper proposal for 2021 [from German governing body, ADAC] on the table. It does not mean that they could not be part of the 2022 calendar, but nothing on the table for 2021.
Is it strange to have Estonia and Finland back-to-back given they’re such similar-style events?
Maybe the roads are close to the roads we have in Finland, but it’s not 100% the same, but it’s close. But, first is to thank them for the work they have done – but also I think it brings also ideas, value into the championship, new blood into the championship and that some other events will be able to take advantage from things that they did in Estonia.
I can tell you, the Estonian people are very kind also to show and to help on some new technologies and approaches they had to other events and I think they have earned their place in the championship and especially I would say in this difficult time [because of coronavirus]. They really fulfill what we expect from an organizer for the future.
And it’s recognition for what the Estonian Autosport Union achieved this year?
What they did was amazing, what they did this year. And what they showcase was amazing also. I think it makes fully sense to have them in the calendar in 2021.