Ypres will hold a round of the World Rally Championship this season for the first time, coming at the expense of Rally GB, WRC Promoter has confirmed.
As revealed by DirtFish on Thursday, the Belgian event, which had been on the 2020 calendar as a back-up round during the COVID-19 affected season, will formally be part of the WRC.
Subject to approval by the FIA and local motorsport authority (ASN), the event will be held on an as yet undefined date in August, with the originally planned WRC round in Northern Ireland deferred to 2022.
Managing director of WRC Promoter Jona Siebel said that Ypres’s addition to the WRC calendar is likely to prove popular with crews.
“Ypres has been a hugely popular cornerstone of European rallying for more than half a century,” Siebel said.
“Its elevation to the WRC will provide one of the season’s sternest challenges and I’m delighted the championship will finally visit Belgium after last year’s unfortunate delay.
“Its tricky mix of narrow asphalt lanes with big ditches lining the roads, allied with some stages in the dark and the potential for mixed weather, will provide plenty of thrills and spills for fans.”
Belgium will become the 35th nation to host a WRC round, with the Ypres Rally a favorite among the rallying community since its first edition in 1965.
The rally will largely maintain its existing format according to organizers, Superstage, and has the support of the FIA’s Rally Director Yves Matton as well.
“The 2021 calendar has been developed against the backdrop of the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic and we knew we would possibly face ongoing issues in this new year,” he said.
“It is a chance for Ypres Rally Belgium to step in after last year’s attempt. It will showcase the DNA of rally with a route that links Ypres to Spa-Francorchamps, two iconic venues of Belgian motorsport. I very much look forward to it.”
Siebel also lamented the deferral of Northern Ireland’s proposed WRC event, which ultimately fell through due to uncertainty over public funding during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s sad the WRC will not enjoy the beauty of Northern Ireland this year, but the pandemic continues to impact the global economy. Our enthusiasm for a WRC round there remains strong and we look forward to continuing our discussions for 2022,” Siebel added.
Rally Northern Ireland promoter Bobby Willis echoed Siebel’s sentiments.
“Tourism Northern Ireland recognizes that hosting Rally Northern Ireland in 2021 represented a positive opportunity to profile the region globally and would serve to celebrate Northern Ireland’s motorsport heritage,” he said.
“However, it feels COVID-19 could diminish the substantial economic benefits WRC historically bestows upon its host regions, and therefore investment would not represent best value for public money at this time.
“We must accept the situation for 2021 and focus on our discussions to explore the avenues for 2022.”