A revised 2021 World Rally Championship calendar has failed once again to see the return of New Zealand with Australia now also getting the axe.
The Covid-19 pandemic caused massive disruptions in the 2020 season with New Zealand just one of many events cancelled as the championship largely centred itself around Europe.
It was set to be New Zealand’s first round of the WRC since 2012.
But despite a push by organisers to ensure New Zealand retains its round for 2021, it was instead replaced by Australia on an initial draft calendar published in June.
However, with the global pandemic still causing large amounts of uncertainty concerning international travel, WRC promoters have reshuffled its provisional 2021 calendar with Europe the main hub.
Only three of the 12 rounds are outside Europe and are in Japan, Kenya and Chile.
Australia was the only Oceania round scheduled for next year but its cut from the draft calendar has left organisers disappointed.
“We have been in regular discussions with the WRC promoter and the FIA about the plans for 2021 and while it is unfortunate that Australia cannot be on the calendar next year, we understand the rationale behind the decision,” said Motorsport Australia CEO Eugene Arocca.
“In the very short term, our focus will be on the RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship, but we will also continue to work with both the WRC promoter and the FIA about hosting an Australian round in 2022 at a location to be confirmed.”
The 12 round calendar kicks off with the traditional Monte Carlo opener over January 21-24.
Estonia is also included in the championship after being called-up at short notice to host a post-lockdown restart event in September; its first WRC event.
Kenya’s iconic Safari Rally and Japan, which were both included in this year’s schedule but cancelled due to the pandemic, are also listed. Spain returns after a year’s absence.
Judging by comments from WRC Promoter Managing Director Jona Siebel, the 12 rounds on the list are relatively set in stone. A list of reserve rounds in Europe and South America are in place in case of another coronavirus-induced calendar change.
It means a WRC round in New Zealand next year is extremely unlikely.
“COVID-19 has hit international sporting events extremely hard,” said Siebel.
“WRC has not been spared, leading to the unfortunate cancellation of several events throughout 2020.
“So, in developing the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship calendar, we had to take pragmatic and strategic decisions on the continuing impact on global travel next year.
“We could not foresee any long-haul events being held in a safe manner for the public, or for our large group of travelling staff, suppliers, competitors and media, for the first five months of 2021.
“It’s essential our event organisers are fully committed to managing the difficult COVID-19 controls we can expect to be in place next year while delivering high-quality championship rounds.
“I’m confident the 12 rallies chosen for next year will not let us down.”
2021 WRC calendar:
|8||Finland||Jul 29-Aug 1|
|9||United Kingdom||Aug 19-22|