Three new events have been included in the 2020 World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar, which was released by the FIA earlier today.
Kenya, New Zealand and Japan will replace Corsica, Spain and Australia respectively.
Yves Matton, FIA Rally Director, said the new calendar reflected efforts to “globalise” the championship by staging more events outside of Europe. However, he also emphasised the importance of retaining classic European rallies to “preserve the DNA of the sport.”
He added: “With the strong interest of many countries to host a WRC round, we had more high-quality candidates than the number of slots available in the calendar, which demonstrates the robust health and popularity of the championship.”
All three countries that have been incorporated into the new calendar have previous experience of holding WRC rounds. The championship last visited Kenya for the Safari Rally in 2002, while Japan has been absent from the calendar since 2010. New Zealand is the most recent of the three events to have featured in the WRC, having hosted a round of the championship in 2012.
The loss of Corsica and Spain means that the WRC now has only 2 tarmac events (excluding the Monte-Carlo Rally), the first of which (Rally Germany) will not take place until October.
Another consequence of Corsica’s removal from the calendar is that the championship now features an extended leg in North and South America, beginning with Rally Mexico in March, followed by Rally Chile in April and concluding with Rally Argentina in May.
Meanwhile, the UK’s round of the WRC has been moved to the beginning of November, compared to its early October date this year. This makes it the penultimate round of the 2020 championship, which will conclude a few weeks later in Japan.
The full 14-round 2020 WRC calendar is as follows:
|1.||26 January||Rally Monte-Carlo|
|2.||16 February||Rally Sweden|
|3.||15 March||Rally Mexico|
|4.||19 April||Rally Chile|
|5.||3 May||Rally Argentina|
|6.||24 May||Rally Portugal|
|7.||7 June||Rally Italy|
|8.||19 July||Rally Kenya|
|9.||9 August||Rally Finland|
|10.||6 September||Rally New Zealand|
|11.||27 September||Rally Turkey|
|12.||18 October||Rally Germany|
|13.||1 November||Rally Great Britain|
|14.||22 November||Rally Japan|
2020 will see the return of some iconic events to the WRC. While the Safari Rally has a reputation for the ultra-high demands it placed on cars and crews, the new rally is unlikely to replicate events of old given the requirements of the modern WRC. Hopefully it will still manage to capture the spirit of those brutally tough rallies.
It is not surprising to see Japan make a comeback, given Toyota’s presence in the championship. As for New Zealand, it has been reported that the event’s return may be short-lived, effectively a stop-gap while Rally Australia looks for a new location. It will nevertheless be great to see the Auckland-based event back on the global stage.
As exciting as it is to see new rallies on the WRC calendar, it is always a shame to lose historic Eurpean events like Corsica. I am also concerned at the lack of tarmac rallies for 2020. While Spain is a mixed-surface event, it is probably best known for the twisting ribbons of asphalt that make up a large part of the rally. However, under the FIA’s new rotation system for the WRC calendar, it is due to return in 2021.