Hemicuda Rally, which was being used by Toyota and Hyundai as a warm-up event ahead of the Ypres Rally, has joined South Belgium Rally in being canceled only days before the event was set to begin.
Both Hemicuda and South Belgium were earmarked as warm-up rallies for the WRC’s first foray to Ypres, with Hemicuda considered more representative of the first two days of action in Ypres given its northern location within Belgium.
On Friday morning the Belgian government banned all amateur sports competitions, with exemptions still in place for professional sports to be carried out behind closed doors.
That offered a potential reprieve but following a decision by Belgium’s Ministry of Sports to classify the rally as an amateur event, organizers were forced to cancel the event less than 48 hours before it was due to begin.
“Of course, on the eve of our competition, this is a huge disappointment,” said Jan Verschaeve, organizer of the Hemicuda Rally.
“When we made the decision to organize months ago, we knew there would be a lot of risks. Until the last minute, we have adapted and were now fully ready to organize the competition even without an audience, in line with the new measures.
“However, what we didn’t count on, given the participation of some professionals, given the international field of participants, given the tight national security protocol and given the many national security procedures we need to comply with, the competition would still be considered an amateur competition.
“The exact definition of what should be legally understood by ‘professional’ versus ‘amateur’ came after further consultation with the Ministry of Sport, which is immediately why we had to keep everyone in uncertainty for so long.”
Toyota’s lead pairing of Elfyn Evans and Sébastien Ogier were both set to drive factory Toyota Yaris WRCs on Hemicuda, while Hyundai had planned to redirect Ott Tänak and Craig Breen to the event after the South Belgium Rally was canceled on Thursday.
WRC2 was also set to be heavily represented, with Hyundai’s WRC2 pairing of Nikolay Gryazin and Ole Christian Veiby joined by M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux on the entry list. WRC3 regulars Nicolas Ciamin and Grégoire Munster, plus Junior WRC title contender Sami Pajari, had also entered.