As expected, the FIA World Motor Sport Council didn’t announce any details of how the revised 2020 World Rally Championship calendar is coming together after its meeting on Friday.
But it has confirmed nine rallies that will definitely be on the 2021 schedule – Monte Carlo, Finland, Portugal, Sweden, the Safari, Spain, Italy, Japan and Australia – albeit without dates yet.
David Evans explains the background to what’s been announced today and the implications.
The FIA has announced that the nine events which had contracts to hold a round of the World Rally Championship next season will remain on the calendar, following the World Motor Sport Council meeting.
The Council’s confirmation that Monte Carlo, Sweden, Portugal, Italy, Kenya, Finland, Spain, Japan and Australia all have contracts for a slot on the 2021 World Rally Championship calendar will leave some of the series’ real heavyweights pondering their future.
The big unanswered question – not that we really expected it to be answered – is the one about the size of that 2021 calendar. The manufacturers are pushing for 10 rounds, the WRC Promoter wants 12. There’s a sensible compromise which would dictate 11 rallies next year.
That leaves México, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Turkey, GB and France out in the cold. Germany was always expected to rotate with Spain, but the Bostalsee-based organizers could feel rightly aggrieved if they’re forced out by coronavirus this year and don’t get a shot next year.
Who stays and who goes? If you’re going on history alone, then the 10th and potentially final seat has to go to Wales Rally GB. Britain’s event is one of the founding rounds of the WRC and has been there as a qualifying round of an FIA world championship for each and every year since (admittedly 1996 was a rotated World 2-Litre Cup round). Talk to the drivers, to the teams, the FIA and the promoter and they will talk about the heritage and the need to maintain these heartland rallies in place.
Will there be room for such sentiment if there’s one round remaining?
Not a chance. Simple supply and demand economics will locate the price north of what Wales and Rally GB can afford. Instead, that slot will likely go to one of the – by comparison with Rally GB – nouveau riche. That said, in these cost-cutting COVID times, who’s to say Chile or Turkey would be able to foot that bill?
It would be wholly unfair to talk of New Zealand, Argentina, México and France in such terms. Let’s not forget, NZ’s South Pacific Rally arrived in 1977 and Argentina’s Rally Codasur was only three years behind that.
New Zealand’s position is difficult to read. For months now we’ve been told there were no firm plans in Australia for next season, but rest assured this news wouldn’t have come out of WMSC if the Aussies didn’t have a solution. It’s unlikely to be back in Coffs Harbour, after the WRC Promoter made its feelings clear that the New South Wales town simply wasn’t big enough.
The assumption was that New Zealand would take its 2020 event and run it in September next year. It’s possible an Australian-New Zealand back-to-back combo could work, but that would skew the WRC’s focus in favor of Australasia, leaving the all-important Americas with nothing.
France was, of course, present in ’73 – but present on the fabulous island of Corsica. France’s next WRC event, we’re assured, will be on the mainland. The FFSA is well-versed in running rallies at the highest level and needs no introduction to the rulebook, but there are, no doubt, questions which need to be answered regarding where the event will take place. France, it would appear, is on the backburner right now (unless you count January’s dash south through the Alps from Gap to the coast – but that doesn’t count, because that’s called the Monte Carlo Rally…).
And what about México? Is there a better example of a contemporary loyal servant to the sport? I think not. The Guanajuato event has evolved and innovated more than virtually any other rally in the last decade and it too would have a very big call on that final chair.
All of the above is next year’s headache. Or at least a headache for later this season.
Right now, the focus is on what to do with the balance of 2020. As we predicted, there was no news on what the rest of this year might look like. That’s a fire the FIA and WRC Promoter are still frantically fighting.
What little the FIA confirmed regarding 2020 was testing regulations, inking the expected one day per driver for each European WRC round. Plus engine allocation for 2020 was capped to two units for the year, should there be eight or less rallies this year. Which is a near-certaintly, should there be more rallies at all.