Tanak fears 2021 WRC season at risk amid COVID-19

Reigning World Rally Champion Ott Tanak believes the series faces the threat of being mothballed in 2021 unless organisers can identify a way to run events safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

Tanak fears 2021 WRC season at risk amid COVID-19
Listen to this article

Only five of the rallies that made up the original 2020 WRC calendar for this year went ahead as planned, with these far outweighed by rounds in Argentina, Portugal, Kenya, Finland, New Zealand, Japan, Great Britain and Germany being cancelled.

Estonia and Belgium were added to help shore up the re-jigged schedule prior to Rally Monza joining the fray as an eighth event, but last week the FIA and WRC Promoter faced a fresh setback with the cancellation of the Ypres Rally as the number of positive COVID-19 cases across Belgium led to a national lockdown there.

That has left Monza as the only rally left on what is now a seven-event schedule.

Tanak told Motorsport.com he did not have a problem with the decision to call off Ypres, but suggested some fresh thinking is needed by all stakeholders to safeguard the 2021 season, which is set to kick off on January 21 in Monte Carlo.

“The cancellation of the Ypres Rally is on very obvious reasons and there was really no other choice,” said the Estonian, whose hopes of retaining his drivers’ crown now appear all but over.

"The current circumstances in the world are extreme but still it is a shame to see how other [motorsport] disciplines are able to work out a plan to live together with COVID and the WRC’s still kind of hoping to run events.

“The first part of next year is currently not looking much different and if we continue the same [approach] then also next year we won’t have any championship.”

FIA Rally Director Yves Matton said the fluid nature of COVID-19 made it impossible to say whether a WRC round would go ahead or not, especially as special stages criss-cross large geographical areas.

“In the current circumstances, hosting international rally events is a major challenge and requires a close collaboration between all parties,” Matton told Motorsport.com.

The nature of rallying is that it touches the communities that we visit – we cannot isolate ourselves from the environment that is around us.

The COVID-19 situation is rapidly evolving and every country, every region, has different rules and restrictions to manage the pandemic. In this context, it is difficult, and in some cases not possible, to set a deadline on whether an event can take place or not.

“The situation is constantly changing and in conjunction with all the stakeholders, we will continue to have a pragmatic, flexible response to enable the sport to continue as much as it is safe to do so."

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota Yaris WRC

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota Yaris WRC

Photo by: Toyota Racing

shares
comments

Related video

Ypres Rally “proven” to be future WRC event
Previous article

Ypres Rally “proven” to be future WRC event

Next article

Paddon: Rallying risks being left behind on green tech

Paddon: Rallying risks being left behind on green tech
Load comments
The former WRC star playing the unsung hero role for Rovanpera Prime

The former WRC star playing the unsung hero role for Rovanpera

Kalle Rovanpera’s 2022 World Rally Championship displays have been spectacular, with the Toyota driver benefitting from a secret weapon in his crew to win two of the opening three rallies. But while the former challenger to Sebastien Loeb won’t take credit for his fellow Finn's performances, a key bond has been formed which could prove key to Rovanpera’s title charge

WRC
Apr 29, 2022
How Rovanpera's Croatia turnaround sent a message to his WRC rivals Prime

How Rovanpera's Croatia turnaround sent a message to his WRC rivals

After a dominating Rally Croatia, a wrong tyre choice on the final day looked to have undone all Kalle Rovanpera's hard work and left him with a mountain to climb heading into the power stage. That he emerged the winner all the same has surely quelled any lingering doubts that the Finn is the man to beat in the 2022 WRC

WRC
Apr 25, 2022
How M-Sport's faith in Loubet led to a WRC reprieve after a dismal 2021 Prime

How M-Sport's faith in Loubet led to a WRC reprieve after a dismal 2021

It's fair to say 2021 was a year to forget for Pierre-Louis Loubet. A maiden full World Rally Championship season offered hope but soon turned into a nightmare that ended in hospital, after being hit by a car in a road traffic accident. Now handed a lifeline by M-Sport, the Frenchman is desperate to rebuild his career

WRC
Apr 20, 2022
Why WRC mechanics deserve more respect Prime

Why WRC mechanics deserve more respect

The drivers get the glare of attention, but it’s the mechanics who are key to the operation of any World Rally Championship car. Motorsport.com donned a set of overalls and joined M-Sport on a Belgian national rally event to get an inside look into the life of a rally mechanic.

WRC
Apr 17, 2022
The African McRae aiming to become a WRC pioneer Prime

The African McRae aiming to become a WRC pioneer

Taking his first step into the Junior World Rally Championship category, McRae Kimathi - named after 1995 world champion Colin - found himself in the unfamiliar climes of Sweden's snow and ice. Having impressed, Kimathi hopes to blaze a trail to the top level of WRC and help other African drivers to step onto the ladder

WRC
Mar 8, 2022
How Rovanpera grabbed the Rally Sweden spotlight Prime

How Rovanpera grabbed the Rally Sweden spotlight

After a blockbuster opening act to the new era of the World Rally Championship with the battle of the Sebastiens at Monte Carlo, Rally Sweden would be the first chance to assess the next superstar of rallying. While teething issues with the new hybrid power thwarted some of the cast, Kalle Rovanpera’s display gave him headline billing

WRC
Feb 28, 2022
The "painful" journey behind the WRC's generational tech innovation Prime

The "painful" journey behind the WRC's generational tech innovation

As the company selected to provide the hybrid kits for the 2022 World Rally Championship, the pressure was on Compact Dynamics at the Monte Carlo season opener. Needing to treat all three manufacturers equally, it wasn't a straightforward process, but its first big test was a resounding success that bodes well for the future.

WRC
Feb 25, 2022
The mentality shift key to Lappi’s shot at WRC redemption Prime

The mentality shift key to Lappi’s shot at WRC redemption

He appeared poised to become the World Rally Championship’s new bright young star five years ago, but Esapekka Lappi's fortunes since his 2017 breakthrough win offer a cautionary tale of how the tables can turn. Now having rebuilt his career, the Finn is determined to make the most of his second shot at the big time with Toyota.

WRC
Feb 23, 2022