The WRC governing body announced that Australia would not host any round of the 2021 World Rally Championship. This decision was made even though the provisional calendar published in June this year (2020) included Australia as one of the hosts. The decision was made public following the release of the updated FIA approved calendar for 2021. This accounts for Australia's second miss in a row since the 2019 edition of the competition.
In 2019, the FIA voted to subject Rally Australia, Rally France, and Rally Spain to the event rotation policy. It was evident that the World Rally Championship was becoming increasingly popular. Its growing popularity has put pressure on both the FIA and the GmbH to accommodate more countries. However, Australia will be missing out as host in 2021 for an entirely different reason.
So why exactly is there no World Rally Championship Australia?
2020 has been a wild and highly uncertain year, no thanks to the COVID-19 virus. The pandemic had a significant effect on the competition's smooth ride this year, forcing some events to cancel. The decision to exclude Australia as a host in the 2021 World Rally Championship is a precautionary move— a bid to avoid travel restrictions and other impacts of the pandemic from affecting the competition.
The WRC promoters are looking out for a hitch-free competition this time. Since 2019, there's been one unplanned circumstance or the other impacting the competition's smooth running. The final round of the 2019 Rally Australia was cancelled due to bushfires that claimed lives and properties in Northern South Wales. Then came the pandemic in 2020, which has practically thwarted all sporting event plans.
From a planning point, the organisers want to avoid anything that could lead to the events' eventual cancellation.
How are WRC aficionados taking the news?
The news came when Australia Motorsport was planning to move the rally to Bathurst next year. The plan was to organise a ceremonial start in Bathurst and finish in Sydney to increase its international and national profile. Despite the disappointment of the FIA's new course of action, Eugene Arocca, Motorsport Australia CEO, quickly admitted that the situation was understandable.
Motorsport Australia released a statement that there have been regular discussions with the FIA and WRC promoter. Arocca said that “while it is unfortunate that Australia cannot be on the calendar next year, we understand the rationale behind the decision.” He added that Australians should still expect to host some other international standard events notwithstanding the prevailing situation.
In the short term, the focus will be on the RSEA Motorsport Australia Rally Championship. At the same time, negotiation continues with the WRC promoters and the FIA about a potential opportunity of hosting in 2022.
The 2021 WRC Calendar
The 2021 World Rally Championship was revealed on the 9th of October. It is scheduled to be held in over twelve countries across Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America, with just three long-distance events (Japan, Chile, and Kenya).
It is worthy of note that Croatia is expected to host the event for the first time. For the first time since 2002, the WRC will be returning to Africa in the WRC Safari Rally Kenya. The majority of the rounds (two-thirds) begin from June onwards. The calendar was so designed to allow the effects of the pandemic to ease some more. Rallies in Turkey, Latvia, Greece, Italy, Belgium, Italy (Monza), and Argentina are also in the books as contingency event locations for the non-European rounds.
Below is the schedule of the rally for the championship:
21 – 24 January
Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo
11 – 14 February
22 – 25 April
WRC Rally Croatia
20 – 23 May
WRC Rally de Portugal
03 – 06 June
WRC Rally Italy
24 – 27 June
WRC Safari Rally Kenya
15 – 18 July
WRC Rally Finland
29 July – 01 August
WRC Rally Estonia
19 – 22 August
WRC Rally UK
09 – 12 September
WRC Rally Chile
14 – 17 October
WRC Rally Spain
11 – 14 November
WRC Rally Japan
Another major haul to the competition is the change in the game tyre supplier, which saw Pirelli replace Michelin for the 2021 events. Pirelli would supply tyres to all teams contending in the competition.
We can't wait to return to the stands to cheer and watch the 2021 World Rally Championship.
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By Damilare Olasinde