Organisers of Wales Rally GB have today (Tuesday) announced the cancellation of the UK’s long-running round of the FIA World Rally Championship due to the unprecedented global coronavirus pandemic.
This year’s 76th staging of the historic 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 such huge appeal, Wales Rally GB typically attracts numerous top-class entries from around the globe and 100,000 spectators to competitive speed tests set in the spectacular forests of mid and north Wales.
However, with continuing concerns over the evolution of COVID-19 and the safety restrictions it has imposed on large-scale gatherings and international travel, 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. 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.”
First run in 1932, Rally GB is one of just two rounds to have been a permanent fixture in the annual FIA World Rally Championship since the series’ inauguration back in 1973.
Before the advent of the WRC, the UK’s premier rally had only been stopped by World War 2 in 1940, the Suez Crisis and resultant petrol rationing in 1957 and the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease in 1967. The event has been set in Wales since 2000, with major title support from the Welsh Assembly Government since 2003. Having initially been based in the south of the country, it moved to a new home in the north in 2013.
As well as attracting close to 100,000 visitors from all around the world, Wales Rally GB annually generates in excess of £9m of economic benefit for the region and in recent years has raised more than £250,000 for local charities and good causes – a success story which will now continue in 2021.