Rally NZ patiently awaiting 2021 WRC call up

Rally New Zealand organisers are still holding out hope that they could be included in the 2021 World Rally Championship calendar.

Had it not been for unprecedented events in 2020, last weekend would have seen Rally New Zealand return to the WRC. Instead, the series got back underway in Estonia after a six-month break.

Nine rallies have already been slated for 2021, and that doesn’t include NZ, but event boss, PJ Johnston, hasn’t given up the fight just yet.

“We’ve heard absolutely nothing from the WRC Promoter about next year, so everything is on hold,” Johnston said this week.

“We’re waiting and ready to go though. All our funding is organised, all our infrastructure is in place, and we have shakedown events planned for November.”

There has still been no word whatsoever from Motorsport Australia about the running of Rally Australia next year, perhaps giving hope to Rally New Zealand.

The Australian event was one of the rallies included on the initial list of nine events, but nothing is known about the rally, other than that it is expected that it will run out of Bathurst in New South Wales.

Whether Motorsport Australia’s silence means the rally is in doubt remains to be seen.

Johnston, meanwhile, said that Rally New Zealand were still in talks with the WRC Promoter, but the ongoing COVID situation just meant that the event had to be patient.

Asked if a late announcement of a New Zealand WRC round for next year created a problem, he added:

“Certainly not. The timeframe is not an issue, as we’re ready to go.”

It is thought that the leading teams are calling for a reduction in event numbers next year, with 10 the favoured option.

As 2020 progresses, however, it is appearing more and more likely that next year’s WRC could be either wholly, or primarily, based in Europe.

“I’m hearing there’ll be no long-haul events in the first half of 2021,” a WRC insider said this week.

“There’s really only talk about Chile, Japan and Kenya next year, so I can’t see New Zealand being included with all the immigration uncertainties,” he added.

Maybe, then, Rally New Zealand’s optimism is just that, with the WRC Promoter likely to burst the event’s bubble without a World Rally Car turning a wheel in anger.

Peter Whitten

Peter has been the editor of RallySport Magazine since its inception in 1989, in both printed and online form. He is a long-time competitor, event organiser and official, as well as working in the media.

http://rallysportmag.com

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