The World Rally Championship has confirmed that Ypres Rally has been cancelled, putting Toyota’s Elfyn Evans on the brink of becoming the first British driver to win the championship since Richard Burns in 2001.
The decision to cancel the next scheduled round set to take place in Belgium from November 19-22 is due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the country, with regional government restrictions making the event an impossibility to stage safely.
Evans currently heads up the championship on 111 points, with his closest challenger Sébastien Ogier on 97 points and just a single round of the season remaining, set to take place at Monza in early December, with a crucial 30 points up for grabs.
Belgium was preparing to host a championship WRC round for the first time, but the rapid spread of coronavirus in Belgium in the last month led to the decision being made. Hyundai had already arrived in Ypres and conducted its three-day test ahead of next month.
“We have always fully supported Renties Ypres Rally Belgium, but this time we can’t let the rally go on,” mayor of Ypres Emmily Talpe said.
“We took this decision in close consultation with the governor of West Flanders, Carl Decaluwé, and the mayors of the other municipalities.”
The WRC season has already been heavily altered, with a six-month delay between the third round in Mexico and the resuming of the season in Estonia back in September. Nine previously scheduled events had already been cancelled.
Ypres Rally promoter Club Superstage said that it understood and fully agreed with the decision to cancel the event, with the safety of the local population having to take precedent.
“At the moment, the health of the population, of the staff in the care sector, of our employees and volunteers, of the participants and of all rally fans comes first,” Superstage’s Jan Huyghe said.
“We have followed up the health crisis in close consultation with the local authorities. Unfortunately, the figures continued to rise dramatically. The Ypres Rally has been at the forefront of safety in Europe for years. This time, health is also on the rise.”
While Evans’ closest rival is Toyota team-mate Ogier, third-place man Thierry Neuville on 87 points is not out of the reckoning either, despite the cancellation of his home event.
His Hyundai team-mate and reigning champion Ott Tänak is in with an unlikely chance of retaining his title, currently on 83 points and fourth position in the drivers’ standings.