This year’s World Rally Championship calendar is about to take another turn, with Rally Japan expected to become the latest event lost to the coronavirus pandemic – and Belgium’s Ypres Rally talking up its November slot.
The loss of Rally Japan will be felt particularly keenly after it was overlooked last season, but some of the world’s most ardent rally fans look set to wait another year for the their first WRC action since 2010.
One source in Japan told DirtFish: “The chances to bring the WRC here this year have always been very difficult because of the pandemic. When we lost the [Summer] Olympics, trying to bring other big sporting events was not going to be so easy. We talked for a long time about the WRC coming, but the feeling here is that this is not realistic.”
Tokyo’s Olympics were postponed to 2021 in March, but it was June’s announcement that Formula 1’s Japanese Grand Prix would be lost that rang further alarm bells among the nation’s rally fans.
DirtFish understands the decision on Rally Japan will be clarified imminently.
The organizers of the Ypres Rally have been engaged in discussions with WRC Promoter and the FIA for weeks, with Rally of Turkey’s date being moved forward expected to ease Belgium’s path to the WRC calendar.
The teams raised significant logistical concerns about running WRC rounds in Estonia, Turkey and Belgium in five weeks, and shifting the all-asphalt latter event to the end of the year would help ease those worries.
Running the Ypres Rally in the November 20-22 slot Japan holds would compromise plans for the rally to join forces with the World Rallycross Championship’s Benelux round and share the Spa-Francorchamps circuit for the final day.
There is also building speculation of issues with Rally Germany; the Bostalsee-based event, currently scheduled for October 15-17, has already been restricted to becoming a behind closed doors Friday-Saturday event within the confines of Baumholder.