Belgium added to 2021 FIA World Rally Championship calendar

Belgium is to stage a round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) for the first time, becoming the 35th nation to stage a WRC round since the series started in 1973.

The Renties Ypres Rally Belgium will take place in August 2021 and will replace the UK’s proposed fixture in Northern Ireland, which has been deferred for this year due to uncertainty over public funding relative to the COVID pandemic.

The rally will feature three days of competition with an atmospheric service park in Ypres’ historic Grote Markt.

Jona Siebel, managing director at WRC Promoter, commented: “Ypres has been a hugely popular cornerstone of European rallying for more than half a century. Its elevation to the WRC will provide one of the season’s sternest challenges and I’m delighted the championship will finally visit Belgium after last year’s unfortunate delay.”

Siebel also acknowledged the difficulties of Rally Northern Ireland obtaining the required government support in such challenging times: “It’s sad the WRC will not enjoy the beauty of Northern Ireland this year, but the pandemic continues to impact the global economy. Our enthusiasm for a WRC round there remains strong and we look forward to continuing our discussions for 2022.”

FIA rally director Yves Matton added: “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.”

In October, Renties Ypres Rally Belgium was named on the WRC’s 2021 reserve list and Alain Penasse, president of event organiser Club Superstage, said the rally was ready to take its place on the calendar: “Last year our volunteers proved they could switch quickly and organise a WRC event at short notice. Sadly it didn’t happen, but we will be delighted to welcome the WRC for the first time in mid-August.”

The agreement in principle between WRC Promoter and Renties Ypres Rally Belgium is subject to FIA and national sporting authority (ASN) agreement.

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