Belgium, which is due to host the seventh WRC appointment of the season in just twenty days (the Ypres Rally), is being hit hard by the second coronavirus wave.
Brussels is now one of the continental capitals most affected by the pandemic, which is spreading to every corner of the country. As it was to be expected, sporting events are increasingly being cancelled as a result.
In an attempt to prevent the escalation of contagion, the Belgian government has put up restrictions to various competitions. The next round of the World Rally Championship will therefore be faced with such complex situation. Its very celebration is thus very much in the air. The six French specials have, in fact, already been cancelled.
There are also precedents pointing to a likely cancellation. The national authorities have ordered the almost consecutive cancellation of two rally appointments which should have been held last weekend.
Two Belgian rallies cancelled due to Covid 19
First, it was the turn of the South Belgian Rally, a local race scheduled for the 24th of October, with Ott Tänak and Craig Breen as Hyundai’s line-up of choice. This would have served as an ideal rehearsal for the Ypres Rally, with drivers competing under very similar conditions to those of the WRC race.
When news of the cancellation broke out, Hyundai signed its two drivers up to another local race, the Hemicuda Rally (October 25), which was also the rehearsal test of choice for Toyota GAZOO Racing, their rivals at the WRC.
The Japanese squad had chosen Sebastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans, second and first in the standings, respectively, to represent them for the occasion.
The Hemicuda was later cancelled too due to coronavirus concerns, leaving both teams without a chance to train and fine-tune their artillery before the penultimate and perhaps the decisive, battle of the season.
The cancellation of both events is highly significant for the WRC. They represent a clear warning of what could happen with the Ypres Rally, whose celebration is currently hanging by a thread.
Although the Belgian authorities have so far only banned amateur sporting events, allowing professional competitions behind closed doors to go ahead, it is clear that the WRC round is at serious risk of getting the axe.
Hyundai trains for the Ypres Rally in Belgium
Trusting that the race will go ahead despite the aforementioned cancellations (South Belgian Rally & Hemicuda Rally), the team from Alzenau is continuing with its training programme in Belgium this week.
Hyundai’s exclusive line-up is getting ready at a location very near the stages where they are due to compete in three-weeks’ time.
Current WRC defending champion, Ott Tänak & Irishman Craig Breen was the first behind the wheel of the i20 Coupé WRC at the begining of the week. Later, Thierry Neuville took over from his team-mates, delighted to be training at home.
After the local hero, it was the turn of to take the seat of the South Korean missile. The three same drivers will take the start at the Ypres Rally if it finally goes ahead.
Images of Ypres Rally: Hyundai Motorsport.