By David Williams
Wales Rally GB has been cancelled for the first time in over 40 years.
The event – due to take place at the end of October and the high point of the sport in Wales – has been shelved due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic
The Deeside-based rally has become the third round of the World Rally Championship in less than a week to be cancelled and casts major doubts over the viability of this season’s championship.
Last Wednesday Rally Finland suffered the same fate followed 24 hours later by Rally New Zealand.
It brings the total number of cancellations for the 2020 championship to six, following Rally Chile being called off due to political and social unrest.
This year’s 76th staging of the historic Welsh event had been due to run from 29 October to 1 November as the penultimate round on the 2020 WRC schedule and additionally was the concluding rounds of both the FIA Junior World Rally Championship and British Rally Championship.
With continuing concerns over COVID-19 and the safety restrictions it has imposed on large-scale gatherings and international travel, organisers say “there are too many unknown factors to make the organisation of such a sizeable sporting fixture a realistic, or sensible, option in these uncertain times.
COVID-19 FORCES CANCELLATION OF 2020 WALES RALLY GB
It is with great regret that we have today had to cancel the 2020 event due to the unprecedented global coronavirus pandemic.
— Wales Rally GB (@WalesRallyGB) June 9, 2020
“As a result, Wales Rally GB joins the escalating number of sporting events to have been cancelled, along with many highlights on the 2020 Welsh calendar.
“This is not a decision that we have taken lightly but, in close consultation with our chief funding partner the Welsh Government, it is sadly one we are obliged to make in light of the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic,” explained David Richards CBE, the Welsh-born Chairman of Motorsport UK, governing body of UK motorsport and organiser of Wales Rally GB.
“In recent years, the huge appeal of the latest generation of World Rally Cars plus the presence of local star Elfyn Evans – a winner in 2017 – have drawn record crowds to the wonderful Welsh forests, but this is not the appropriate time for us to be planning for and promoting an event that brings tens of thousands of visitors, many from outside the country, into rural Welsh communities.
“As the governing body of UK motorsport, our overriding responsibility and absolute priority is always the safety of all involved whether they be competitors, officials, spectators or the many thousands of volunteers who share our passion for this sport, and we thank them all for their ongoing support and enthusiasm in these difficult times.
“While significant progress is being made to combat the virus, there remains considerable uncertainty regarding mass gatherings, social distancing and travel restrictions, plus the possibility of a resurgence of viral transmission later in the year.
“We have been closely monitoring the guidance issued by Government and it is becoming increasingly clear that it is impossible to make plans with any certainty for such major events in the autumn.
“We therefore have to accept, with an incredibly heavy heart, that cancelling this year’s event is the only responsible and prudent option. We will instead start focusing our attentions on creating an even bigger and better world-class showcase for 2021.”