The World Rally Championship has suffered yet another setback. After the cancellation of Rally Sweden due to the rise in the incidence of coronavirus, it is now the Rally Montecarlo 2021 that has come under threat.
The legendary event, which would mark the start of the WRC, is scheduled for the 21-24 January but, at the moment, its very celebration is hanging by a thread.
The French authorities, following established incidence cut off figures, have issued further restrictions to mobility in a total of fifteen departments in an attempt to contain the spread of the pandemic.
As expected, that blacklist includes the departments of the Hautes Alpes and the Alpes Maritimes, both part of the route of the legendary race. People’s mobility in those regions is already subjected to an 8.00 p.m. curfew, which is now going to be brought forward to 6.00 p.m. and until 6.00 a.m. in the morning.
On the original schedule of Rally Montecarlo 2021, competitive activity extended further beyond that time on the Thursday and Friday. It will now have to be restructured again, a circumstance which might affect the route.
Furthermore, Gap, the town hosting the service park for the Rally and also part of the route, will be severely affected. The locality, which is particularly significant for being the birthplace of seven-time WRC Champ, Sebastien Ogier, lies in the Hautes Alps.
French officials have had no choice but to adopt such drastic measures given the serious health threat posed by an uncontrolled rise in positive cases. There is also a chance that the measures will be extended to the rest of France.
Following the news, Rally Montecarlo 2021 organizers at the Automobile Club of Monaco will have to modify the event schedule for the second time to try and keep the race afloat despite the odds.
The current situation, with the country under a full-on rebound of COVID-19, contrasts with the recent and optimistic words of Yves Matton. The Rally Director of the International Automobile Federation had this to say:
“There are no guarantees, but for the moment we can be pretty sure that the Rally Montecarlo will go ahead.”
The new curfew supposes a very serious setback coming right after the full reorganization of the scheduled that followed the first 8.00 p.m. curfew. This first deadline meant the ‘shakedown’ had to be cancelled altogether, making the 89th edition of Rally Montecarlo the shortest in history, and, of course, the first one with no public.
The squeeze timetable already left very little room for manoeuvring. Now, faced with the prospect of having to compress the Rally Montecarlo 2021 further, its very celebration is being brought into question.
Among the various Motor Racing competitions of 2020, it was precisely the WRC that took the longest to resume following the initial COVID-19 confinement period, upsetting some of its main drivers. The French Seb Ogier was among those that voiced their discontent.
Images of Rally Montecarlo 2021: Rally Montecarlo 2021