Britain’s World Rally Championship round Wales Rally GB has been officially canceled for 2020 due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Up to now, only a World War, a Suez Crisis-enforced lack of petrol and a foot and mouth disease outbreak had previously prevented Britain’s biggest rally from taking place.
Although the 2020 edition was not scheduled to take place for nearly five months, the decision has been taken to call off the October 29-November 1 event now.
Motorsport UK chairman David Richards explained the reasons for the cancellation of a third WRC round – following Rally Finland and Rally New Zealand – in a week.
“This is not a decision that we have taken lightly,” said Richards.
“But, in close consultation with our chief funding partner the Welsh Government, it is sadly one we are obliged to make in light of the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic.
“As the governing body of UK motorsport, our overriding responsibility and absolute priority is always the safety of all involved, whether they be competitors, officials, spectators or the many thousands of volunteers who share our passion for this sport, and we thank them all for their ongoing support and enthusiasm in these difficult times.
“While significant progress is being made to combat the virus, there remains considerable uncertainty regarding mass gatherings, social distancing and travel restrictions, plus the possibility of a resurgence of viral transmission later in the year.”
Last weekend Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford made it clear hotels wouldn’t be opening any time soon and sporting events remained “right at the very end of this spectrum, a long way off”.
Add in Drakeford’s grim view of the season when Rally GB was set to run – “the days will be getting colder, shorter and damper and coronavirus likes the dark, the damp and the cold – and the writing was on the wall for a sporting event reliant on thousands of hotel beds.
Richards added: “We have been closely monitoring the guidance issued by government and it is becoming increasingly clear that it is impossible to make plans with any certainty for such major events in the autumn.
“We therefore have to accept, with an incredibly heavy heart, that canceling this year’s event is the only responsible and prudent option. We will instead start focusing our attentions on creating an even bigger and better world-class showcase for 2021.
“In recent years, the huge appeal of the latest generation of World Rally Cars plus the presence of local star Elfyn Evans – a winner in 2017 – have drawn record crowds to the wonderful Welsh forests, but this is not the appropriate time for us to be planning for and promoting an event that brings tens of thousands of visitors, many from outside the country, into rural Welsh communities.”
The loss of Wales Rally GB leaves just Rally Turkey, Rally Germany and Rally Japan in their regular calendar slots for this season. Rally Italy – originally planned for last week – and Rally Argentina remain postponed.