Rally Finland will not run without fans being admitted to the summer classic, according to well-placed sources in the event, meaning an alternative September date is being mooted.
The loss of last year’s Jyväskylä-based World Rally Championship round, allied to the exit of title sponsor Neste, has left a sizeable hole in the organization’s finances and DirtFish has been told running without fans and the resulting loss of revenue would mean no Rally Finland for a second year in succession.
Spectator revenue delivers a significant contribution to Rally Finland’s overall budget, with Finland running one of the best-organized, fan-oriented events in the championship.
The source said: “The numbers just wouldn’t stack up to run without fans. That’s the bottom line.
“There are a lot of meetings going on right now with the WRC Promoter and the FIA to look at ways of moving the event to September to try to make sure we can bring in spectators.
“Currently, the problem with spectators is COVID-19, so moving as far back in the season as possible means an event is going to improve its chances of running with fans.”
A September move could work, with Finland slotting in after the return of the Acropolis (September 9-12) and Spain (October 14-17). A decision, DirtFish has been told, is expected next week on a possible new date for the event.
Arctic Rally Finland winner Ott Tänak would not be opposed to competing in Jyväskylä during the fall.
“I would say September time would be not so bad,” he told DirtFish.
“Let’s say Finland already has a kind of surface which is also quite OK with the rain so it shouldn’t be a big issue, let’s see.
“I have done some local event in September I remember in Finland and it was not so bad.”
Moving Rally Finland isn’t something that would be done lightly. The Jyväskylä event isn’t one that ever moves outside of its summer date.
The FIA purposefully left a two-month gap between rounds two and three in the hopes of a further easing of coronavirus-enforced restrictions – but that has made for a more congested second half of the year.
A fortnight before Finland is Estonia, a country currently grappling with its own surge in COVID-19 cases, and three weeks later is Ypres Rally in Belgium.
Running within the summer holiday window from late June to the end of July is usually seen as pivotal for Finland. Much of the accommodation for the organizing team in Jyväskylä comes via redundant university beds, while the medical team is made up partly of those doctors working in universities. Running in term time would have significant implications for the event’s infrastructure.
The route for the event has already been drawn and initial road closures applied for – these would have to be re-worked for a September event, but it’s not expected that there would be any major changes to the timetable.