Anybody who has ever been to the Ypres Rally knows how important the fans are to the event – they don’t just provide a key commercially, but could you imagine the Grote Markt fenced off and devoid of its usual atmosphere?
Ypres came close to running in November last year but it was ultimately lost to rising coronavirus numbers in Belgium. Those numbers have peaked and are now very much on the decline.
Ypres Rally promoter Club Superstage president Alain Penasse is optimistic about the chances of seeing fans in service, on the stages and at the Spa Francorchamps circuit.
“If we have to organize it today, I think it would be possible because they organize some stages on the circuit [where spacing and controlling fans would be easier],” Penasse told DirtFish.
“Of course it’s complicated because things are still in lockdown, but let’s see what happens.
I was not sure. I was not a real fan for this. But now I have seen what we can do, it will be magicAlain Penasse on the inclusion of Spa Francorchamps
“I think we have the right contacts now to make it happen, even in difficult situations. The FIA’s Appendix S [the FIA’s coronavirus-specific regulations] will help to do this, it’s quite strict what the FIA is proposing, but we have seen countries run events now. Ours will not be the first rally organized.
“For us the spectators are very important,” he added, “and they generate a lot of income for the event and it helps to bring more government funding [if you can demonstrate event popularity].
“If we can’t organize with spectators, it’s still feasible – all of these discussions are going on, but it’s difficult because a lot of people are sitting on the fence and waiting.”
The route for the August 13-15 event has been published and follows a more typical Ypres format, with a lunchtime Friday start running into the evening. Saturday is a more conventional WRC day, before a very early start (0450) on Sunday for the 170-mile journey south to Francorchamps for the final day’s stages around the Spa track.
“It’s true that it’s not next door,” said Penasse, “it is a long way. But we have seen this before in the WRC.
“For me, when we started to think about combining this event with Ypres roads and stages in Francorchamps, I was not sure. I was not a real fan for this.
“But now I have seen what we can do, it will be magic. To use some of the roads from the Boucles de Spa [rally] and then come into the circuit and use some of the really famous corners and sections before finishing there – it will be magic.”