Rally New Zealand officials have reacted to speculation that they could lose their September event because of the coronavirus pandemic. While the rally remains more than four months away, New Zealand’s firm response to the disease has led to speculation as to whether the WRC will be allowed into the country even by September.
New Zealand has begun to ease its lockdown, but visitors still face two weeks of quarantine before they’re allowed into the community.
Premier Jacinda Ardern’s policy of “go hard and go early” has limited deaths to just 13 so far. But Rally New Zealand CEO Michael Goldstein said the event would keep working towards its September date to bring the WRC back for the first time since 2012.
“Rally New Zealand is continuing to prepare to host a leg of the WRC in Auckland in September,” said Goldstein. “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 the FIA.”
Goldstein denied speculation that funding for Rally NZ’s return was a case of 2020 or never, adding: “Absolutely not. Funding has been committed to hold the event on a one-off basis and September 2021 does not clash with America’s Cup.”
The America’s Cup will be held in Auckland in March 2021. New Zealand is included in this year’s calendar at the expense of Rally Australia, which is likely to use the gap to find a new base away from Coffs Harbour, which is out of favour with WRC Promoter. Last year’s Rally Australia was cancelled due to the bush fires that rampaged through the country and the loss of that event and Australia not being out of the series in 2020 has come as a blow to one of the most commercially astute rounds of the series.
Since last year, Rally Australia has moved its HQ to Motorsport Australia’s Melbourne base. But while there was some movement behind a Bathurst-based Rally Australia through the closed season, sources admit there have been few developments recently.