A further four World Rally Championship rounds will have to run if the series is to crown 2020 champions.
While there is no firm regulation regarding the minimum number of rallies required to constitute a championship, the word from the WRC’s stakeholder working group is that seven is the right number.
With two rallies – Portugal and the Safari – canceled for this year, four events from Argentina, Sardinia (both of which have already been postponed), Finland, New Zealand, Turkey, Germany, GB and Japan must run to offer Ott Tänak the opportunity to defend his title or anyone else to beat him.
FIA rally director Yves Matton told DirtFish: “To award the title we need a proper level of championship and, from my personal opinion, I don’t think we are able to award the championship after three rallies.
“There is a percentage of events that we can start to say titles can be awarded. I don’t have the number, but it’s a reasonable number of events. We have a chance to have 14-event calendar [prior to Rally Chile’s cancellation last November], still if we have 50% then that’s seven and it starts to be a reasonable level of events.
“But I don’t know what will be the level we can run this year. It’s important not to take any decision too quickly and take decisions when we have the right information.
“Once we have a clearer view on the calendar it will be still time to take the decision on will we have a valuable championship to award at the end of the year.”
Six-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier currently leads the drivers’ standings ahead of Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans, with Thierry Neuville third for Hyundai – two places ahead of stablemate and reigning champion Tänak.
WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla – speaking prior to Safari’s announcement that it wouldn’t run in 2020 – agreed on the number seven when he spoke to DirtFish’s Colin Clark.
“Our plan is to make as many rallies as possible,” said Ciesla. “Theoretically we could have a choice of nine. Practically, considering the time and logistics to move between events, especially on sea freight, it’s not very likely we will squeeze nine events in between September and mid-December.
“Between four and seven is a realistic target and our understanding with the FIA is if we manage another four on top of the three we’ve had already, that should be OK to call it a championship, but every event we can do more is appreciated.
“On our working group level, this understanding is that seven should be fine, but we wait for final ratification. I feel comfortable if it were to have seven rallies, we would have a world champion.”
Further news on the future of the next two rounds in Finland and New Zealand is expected from the governments of both countries by the end of this month.