Rally New Zealand has confirmed the cancellation of its September round of the World Rally Championship.
DirtFish revealed the event – along with Neste Rally Finland – would be lost to the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday.
Rally New Zealand CEO Michael Goldstein admitted it was a huge disappointment to lose the event after working towards a Kiwi WRC return for 12 months but said it was understandable given global events.
“It became clear that, with our borders closed to international travel and the logistics required to host thousands of international visitors as part of the World Rally Championship, that the September 2020 date was not practical,” he said.
“Over the last 12 months our team have done a huge amount of work to be ready to host a WRC event.
“We are disappointed to not host the World Rally Championship in 2020 but at the same time the issues around the world put this into context.”
I’m sure the drivers would have loved to be back on its iconic stages or discover them for the first timeYves Matton on the loss of Rally NZ
The first running of Rally New Zealand since 2012 was to have been one of the highlights of the 2020 WRC season.
FIA rally director Yves Matton said the governing body was already working towards finding a solution to taking the WRC back to some of the planet’s most spectacular roads.
Matton added: “We were all excited to see New Zealand reclaim its place in the FIA World Rally Championship in 2020 after a seven-year absence and we are naturally sad that we will not be able to go there this year.
“The event has a strong WRC heritage and I’m sure the drivers would have loved to be back on its iconic stages or discover them for the first time.
“Motorsport New Zealand and the organising team have done a fantastic work so far and we are already looking ahead to the rally taking place in the near future.”
Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development general manager Steve Armitage said the decision was understandable, but he echoed Matton’s sentiment about international rallying being back in NZ.
“While we appreciate this will disappoint many motorsport fans, there are clearly a range of practical issues that cannot be resolved in time for the event to proceed as scheduled,” he said.
“Of course, we welcome the opportunity to work with the promoter and the FIA in the future to explore the possibility of this iconic event returning to our shores in 2021.”
WRC Promoter is now working on putting together a championship from four events with remaining calendar dates (Turkey, Germany, GB and Japan) and the two postponed events in Argentina and Sardinia.
“The return of Rally New Zealand would have been one of the season’s highlights and we hope the opportunity to return to Auckland will come back,” said WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla.
“My thanks go to both the event organisers and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development for their hard work and enthusiasm in bringing New Zealand back to the WRC calendar.
“The FIA, WRC Promoter and individual event organisers continue to work closely together regarding the 2020 calendar going forward.
“Once all options have been identified and studied, we will confirm the shape of the calendar for the rest of the season.”
As DirtFish has previously outlined, seven or eight events are required to construct a meaningful championship this season.
Since the loss of Finland and New Zealand, there has been increased speculation that Italy will be moving into an October date.
Such a shift would likely require a calendar reshuffle, with only two weekends free between Rally Turkey’s date at the end of September, Germany running between October 15-18 and Rally GB from October 29-November. Rally Japan’s season finale begins 17 days after the Deeside finish in Wales.