Wales Rally GB organisers have confirmed the 76th running of the World Rally Championship event has been cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The long-standing rally won’t be happening in 2020, citing concerns over international travel, large-scale gatherings and the ongoing difficulties the coronavirus poses.
It’s the latest in a number of motorsport events to face outright cancellation, despite some series pushing ahead with rescheduled calendars, such as Formula 1, which will kick its delayed season off in Austria next month.
Motorsport UK chairman David Richards said the decision had not been taken lightly, but believes it is in the best interests of all stakeholders involved in the organising of the event after consultation with the Welsh government, which has set out a different path to easing its lockdown compared to England.
“This is not a decision that we have taken lightly but, in close consultation with our chief funding partner the Welsh Government, it is sadly one we are obliged to make in light of the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic,” explained Richards.
“In recent years, the huge appeal of the latest generation of World Rally Cars plus the presence of local star Elfyn Evans – a winner in 2017 – have drawn record crowds to the wonderful Welsh forests, but this is not the appropriate time for us to be planning for and promoting an event that brings tens of thousands of visitors, many from outside the country, into rural Welsh communities.
“As the governing body of UK motorsport, our overriding responsibility and absolute priority is always the safety of all involved whether they be competitors, officials, spectators or the many thousands of volunteers who share our passion for this sport, and we thank them all for their ongoing support and enthusiasm in these difficult times.
“While significant progress is being made to combat the virus, there remains considerable uncertainty regarding mass gatherings, social distancing and travel restrictions, plus the possibility of a resurgence of viral transmission later in the year.”
Richards’ hopes the event will return “bigger and better” next year.
“We have been closely monitoring the guidance issued by Government and it is becoming increasingly clear that it is impossible to make plans with any certainty for such major events in the autumn. We therefore have to accept, with an incredibly heavy heart, that cancelling this year’s event is the only responsible and prudent option.
“We will instead start focusing our attentions on creating an even bigger and better world-class showcase for 2021.”
The cancellation will be another major blow for the Welsh economy, with the event attracting close to 100,000 visitors from all around the world, generating in excess of £9m of economic benefit annually for the region and in recent years has raised more than £250,000 for local charities and good causes.