WRC: Rally NZ set for September start, despite Covid-19 concerns
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Rally New Zealand officials are monitoring the COVID-19 situation daily while pressing ahead with the logistics for a World Rally Championship event in September.
The eagerly anticipated September 3-6 event should be New Zealand’s return to the FIA World Rally Championship for the first time since 2012.
An Auckland-based event has been plotted with an as-yet un-announced route and itinerary.
The spectator super special stage and service park will be at Mt Smart Stadium and the route is expected to include special stages close to Auckland with the longest leg taking crews to the iconic Raglan Coast and Te Akau districts.
Rally New Zealand chief executive Michael Goldstein said the organisation had moved to video conference meetings to continue planning but is reluctant to offer ongoing comment about the event in a rapidly changing situation. He said work is proceeding and there is a daily dialogue with the FIA, WRC Promoter and other stake holders.
"Rally New Zealand is continuing to prepare to host a leg of the World Rally Championships in Auckland in September,’’ Goldstein said in a statement.
"Of course there is currently major global uncertainty affecting everyone, including the 2020 World Rally Championship.
"Over the coming weeks we will continue to liaise closely with local and central government agencies as well as the WRC Promoter and international governing body (FIA)."
The most recent statement from the WRC Promoter was made last month following the postponement of the Portugal and Italy events.
It read: "WRC Promoter and FIA continue to closely monitor the situation in affected countries due to host future rounds, as well as the home countries of WRC teams and all competitors.
“All parties will work to identify potential alternative dates for the postponed rallies later in the season should the COVID-19 situation improve, taking into consideration championship logistics, the ability of competitors to travel again and the ability of the country in question to prepare and host the WRC at such a time,” said WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla.
Rally New Zealand was originally scheduled as the tenth of 14 rounds in the 2020 Championship. The early season Monte Carlo, Sweden and Mexico events have been completed while upcoming events in Argentina, Portugal and Italy have been postponed with no alternative dates announced. Earlier, and for reasons not connected to COVID-19, the Chile event had been cancelled.
The revised calendar currently puts the WRC season on hold till mid-July when the Kenyan Safari Rally is scheduled to run. Rally Finland (August 6-9) and Rally New Zealand are the next scheduled events at this point.
Local Rally Update: With the postponement of the Otago Rally (which was scheduled to run April 4-5) and also the International Rally of Whangarei (May 8-10) the next scheduled event on the domestic rally calendar is the NZ Rally Championship round in South Canterbury on June 20 followed by the Hawke’s Bay Rally on July 25.