Belgium will host its first ever FIA World Rally Championship event as it replaces Japan on the 2020 schedule.
The asphalt event slots into the dates which had originally been reserved for Japan’s return after a 10-year hiatus – 19-22 November – but due to border entry restriction policies imposed by the government due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has had to be called off.
Belgium therefore becomes the 34th nation to host a round of the WRC since it began in 1973.
The Ypres Rally 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.
It will feature about 300km of special stages across three full days of competition. Sunday’s final leg will be 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.”
FIA Rally Director Yves Matton added: “We’re very 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. I thank them for that.
“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.”