WRC testing ban to be lifted next week

Blanket ban in place since April is set to be lifted by FIA, allowing pre-Finland tests to take place

Thierry Neuville

World Rally Championship drivers and co-drivers will be back in their cars for the first time since March when testing returns in Finland next month.

The current testing ban, implemented in early April, will end at midnight this Sunday, with the teams permitted to run Rally1-spec cars again.

The teams are already planning pre-Rally Finland running for the second week in June, ahead of the Jyväskylä-based event’s scheduled date of August 6-9.

The rules governing testing were discussed at Friday’s WRC Commission meeting, with the current 42-day limit being replaced by a new format of three days for each European event, in which each day is allocated to a single driver.

If this year’s calendar had played out as expected – without the coronavirus-induced cancellation of Portugal – that would have equated to a 50% cut – with seven European rallies combining to offer a total of just 21 days of running.

DirtFish understands that decision will be ratified at the World Motor Sport Council on June 19.

In the absence of that revised regulation between June 1-18, the teams are understood to have reached a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that they will not drive for more than three days when testing resumes next month.

A source close to Friday’s meeting said: “There was discussion about extending the testing ban until World Council [on June 19], which seemed like the most straightforward decision, but there are teams and drivers out there who are very keen to be back in the car and testing again.”

DirtFish understands roads have already been booked by the teams in Finland, with travel to the country now being investigated.

Finland will further relax its own lockdown regulations on Monday, with travel from most European countries permitted. Britain’s non-Schengen status is likely to complicate crossing the border into Finland, while Sweden’s decision not to lockdown through the COVID-19 pandemic could make travel from Finland’s westerly neighbour similarly tricky.

The development of 2022 cars is not expected to be affected by this decision, with FIA rally director Yves Matton already having made clear the governing body will look at revising testing rules through 2021 to incorporate preparations for hybrid.

Words:David Evans

Photo:Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool