Dubai: Belgium will host the final round of the 2020 FIA World Rally Championship for the first time after the Renties Ypres Rally Belgium came in as a last minute addition to the calendar this season.
The asphalt event will take place from November 19-22, replacing Rally Japan as the eighth and final round for this season.
Japan’s return to the WRC after a 10-year hiatus had to be called off due to border entry restriction policies imposed by the government due to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic. Belgium will become the 34th nation to stage a WRC round since the series started in 1973.
Ypres was first held in 1965 and has become established as one of Europe’s most demanding rallies. Previous winners include current Hyundai Motorsport WRC driver and home hero Thierry Neuville in 2018 and team-mate Craig Breen last season.
The rally will feature about 300 kms of special stages across three full days of competition with Sunday’s [November 22] final leg focused on the iconic Spa race circuit, with the rally-closing Wolf Power Stage featuring the famous Eau Rouge/Raidillon section of the track.
A service park in the heart of Ypres’ historic ‘Grote Markt’ will be the rally hub and Simon Larkin, WRC Promoter’s senior director events, said the rally would provide a unique test for competitors. “For many years Ypres was a hugely popular cornerstone of the FIA European Rally Championship. Its elevation to the WRC will provide one of the sternest challenges of the year for competitors and a fitting finale to the 2020 season,” he said.
“Its tricky mix of narrow asphalt lanes and big ditches lining the roads, allied with some stages in the dark and the potential for mixed weather, will provide plenty of thrills and spills for fans,” Larkin added.
FIA Rally Director Yves Matton expressed his disappointment for Japan, but was warm in welcoming the latest venue into the fold. “We’re disappointed Rally Japan will not happen this year due to the pandemic, in particular given all the hard work undertaken by the Japanese authorities, the Japanese Automobile Federation and the organising team,” he noted.
“Belgium has a great tradition and passion for rally, evidenced by the number of Belgians in various roles – drivers, mechanics, team principal, journalists – in the WRC. The route will showcase the DNA of the rally as it crosses the country by linking Ypres to Spa-Francorchamps, two iconic venues of Belgian motorsport,” Matton added.
Japan will now focus on preparations for the 2021 season when the rally is held in the Aichi and Gifu regions. Japan is one of nine rounds already confirmed for the 2021 FIA WRC calendar.
The World Rally Championship is the FIA’s premium rally series. WRC showcases authentic motorsport, high performance cars and the world’s best drivers competing in dramatic surroundings ranging from the ice and snow of Scandinavia to the blistering heat of Mexico.
September 4-6: Estonia
September 18-20: Turkey
October 15-18: Germany
October 29-November 1: Italy
November 19-22: Belgium