WRC lobbies France over UK travel restrictions

M-Sport and Promoter figures among hundreds of Brits hoping waiver can be signed ahead of Monte Carlo opener


British participation in next week’s Monte Carlo Rally hangs in the balance as World Rally Championship officials look to find a way across the English Channel for the season opener.

More than 100 team members and competitors – including the majority of the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team – are hoping agreement can be found with the French government in order to pave the way for travel to France and Monaco.

The French government has imposed restrictions on entry to British nationals following the discovery of a new, faster-spreading strain of coronavirus.

Beyond the Cumbrian-based squad, there is a significant number of WRC Promoter workers key to the running of the WRC’s 2021 opener also on that list.

Should the French hold firm and not allow the WRC’s British-based contingent in, that would raise immediate questions over the viability of the Monte Carlo Rally.

Having committed to the 2021 season, M-Sport is contractually bound to participate and while its rival competitors are sympathetic towards the situation, it remains to be seen if a factory Ford Fiesta WRC no-show would bring about a cancellation of the French Alps classic.

Neither the FIA or the WRC Promoter has made any comment on the situation, but cancelling the rally is not a decision either party could take – that decision sits with the organizer, the Automobile Club de Monaco.

One source said: “It’s fair to say that this has become a complete nightmare. There was a good deal of confidence that this could get sorted out and everybody is still working hard to make sure it is, but things like the rugby decision don’t make it any more straightforward.”

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) confirmed Heineken Champions and Challenge Cup games between British and French clubs would be postponed through January.

In a statement EPCR said: “Against the backdrop of the recent detection of a new strain of coronavirus, the French government has directed that French clubs postpone their participation in EPCR’s tournaments for the month of January, both for matches scheduled in France and for those due to be played in the United Kingdom and Ireland.”

DirtFish understands the French prime minister Jean Castex will make further announcements regarding his government’s approach to COVID-19 regulations in the next 24 hours.

Words:David Evans

Photo:M-Sport World Rally Team