UK loses 2021 WRC round to Belgium

Rally News

Northern Ireland will no longer host a WRC round this year after a lack of public funding, but does have a hope for 2022

2019 Wales Rally GB

The UK will miss out on a round of the World Rally Championship this year, with Belgium taking its slot for 2021.

It will be the second year in a row that UK rally fans will miss out on a home event, following the Covid-forced cancellation of Wales Rally GB in 2020.

The rally had been due to move to Northern Ireland this year but will not now take place due to a lack of public funding.

Motorsport UK, which governs four-wheel racing in the country, said that it was looking to secure funds to bring WRC back as soon as possible, and the door has been left open for 2022.

“Against the economic backdrop of Covid-19, it is unfortunate that the requisite funding could not be agreed to secure the UK’s position within the 2021 calendar,” said Hugh Chambers, Motorsport UK CEO.

” Our enthusiasm for a Northern Ireland WRC round remains strong”

“Motorsport UK is working to secure sustainable funding for the event’s early return to the WRC calendar. Those efforts include maintaining a close dialogue with the Welsh Government and other regions in order that UK fans can enjoy the incredible spectacle of the World Rally Championship at the earliest opportunity.”

Last year was the first since 1967 that the leading UK rally has been cancelled. Plans had been announced to host one in three future rallies outside of Wales, starting with Northern Ireland at the end of this year.

However, the event has been in doubt since last April, when the Northern Ireland tourist authority refused a bid for funding.

“Tourism Northern Ireland recognises that hosting Rally Northern Ireland in 2021 represented a positive opportunity to profile the region globally, and would serve to celebrate Northern Ireland’s motorsport heritage,” said Rally Northern Ireland promoter Bobby Willis.

“However, it feels Covid-19 could diminish the substantial economic benefits WRC historically bestows upon its host regions, and therefore investment would not represent best value for public money at this time.

“We must accept the situation for 2021 and focus on our discussions to explore the avenues for 2022.”

From the archive

The vacancy in the calendar allows Belgium to hold its first WRC round, at the second attempt.

An asphalt rally had been planned for Ypres in 2020 before the pandemic took effect. This year’s three-day round is scheduled for the same location in August.

“It’s sad the WRC will not enjoy the beauty of Northern Ireland this year, but the pandemic continues to impact the global economy,” said Jona Siebel, managing director of WRC Promoter, the commercial rights holder for the championship. “Our enthusiasm for a WRC round there remains strong and we look forward to continuing our discussions for 2022.

FIA Rally Director Yves Matton said: “The 2021 calendar has been developed against the backdrop of the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic and we knew we would possibly face ongoing issues in this new year.”

“Bobby Willis and his team have put in a lot of work and efforts to bring the WRC to Northern Ireland and we’re very disappointed there will be no rally in the UK this year.

“It is a chance for Ypres Rally Belgium to step in after last year’s attempt. It will showcase the DNA of rally with a route that links Ypres to Spa-Francorchamps.”