For the first time since 1995, there’s a very real danger the World Rally Championship won’t be making a trans-Atlantic trip to roads in the Americas.
Despite a landmass of 26.44 million square miles – 28 per cent of planet earth’s total surface area – and population of more than a billion folk, the continents of North and South America could be without a World Rally Championship round in 2021.
Last month’s World Motor Sport Council confirmed contracts with nine rallies, but Argentina, México and Chile were not among them. While FIA rally director Yves Matton insists no firm decisions have been made regarding the number of events next season, 10 is looking more and more likely. Eleven at a push.
The last time the teams didn’t fly west from their European bases was 25 years ago.
Since 2004, Patrick Suberville has built Rally México into one of the series’ showcase events.
“Right now,” Suberville told DirtFish, “nobody knows what the future holds, not economically or in terms of the [COVID-19] pandemic. Under those circumstances, it simply wasn’t possible to confirm our participation [with WRC Promoter]. We are talking to the promoter and to the FIA about next year. We’ll see what happens, but it would be a big deal not to have something on this side of the Atlantic.”
DirtFish understands early September represents a chronological deadline to start working on a 2021 Rally México.
Suberville was quick to pour cold water on speculation of possible rotation in the Americas.
“It doesn’t work,” he said. “It can’t work and we’ve demonstrated this. In 2009, when we last had rotation, we had to make up the Rally of Nations (a León-based Rally México replacement for one year) to keep everybody – the sponsors, partners, officials – involved.
“We have to have a certain number of people working on rallies from year-to-year; we can’t train somebody new every two years. And it’s economically unfeasible. It’s hard enough to keep sponsors when you’re running year on year, trying to keep a sponsor when you skip a year is almost impossible and probably deadly for the event. We all know it doesn’t work and the FIA and the promoter knows that if this is the future, then we would be out.”
Argentina and Chile were due to run this year, but the Villa Carlos Paz based event was forced to cancel due to the coronavirus, while the action on the Pacific side of the Andes was lost due to civil unrest which broke out in the country late last year.