2020 WRC Calendar Thoughts

The 2020 WRC calendar was published today. There are more changes than we’ve used to seeing in the past years. Here’s a summary of how the characteristics of the season will change

1. 26 January Rally Monte-Carlo
2. 16 February Rally Sweden
3. 15 March Rally Mexico
4. 19 April Rally Chile
5. 3 May Rally Argentina
6. 24 May Rally Portugal
7. 7 June Rally Italy
8. 19 July Rally Kenya
9. 9 August Rally Finland
10. 6 September Rally New Zealand
11. 27 September Rally Turkey
12. 18 October Rally Germany
13. 1 November Rally Great Britain
14. 22 November Rally Japan

Three returning rallies

If we want to summarize the calendar quickly, Kenya, New Zealand and Japan are added, whereas Corsica, Catalunya and Australia are dropped. All three new rallies have featured in the WRC before. Kenya appeared last in 2002, New Zealand in 2012 and Japan in 2010. However, the previous Rally Japan was a gravel event, whereas the new one is driven on tarmac. Safari will also be a different rally to what it is, as discussed before.

Personally, I’m delighted to see the new WRC cars on the fantastic roads of New Zealand. Kenya will also be interesting in a new terrain, but I don’t really know much about how Rally Japan will turn out.

Mixed surface gone with Catalunya

With Spain going we lose the only mixed surface event of the season. It was already rumored that Spain would become again an all-tarmac event, but as a last minute change it was dropped from the calendar completely.

Meanwhile, I don’t think anyone will miss the gravel stages of Catalunya, as they are not so different to Portugal and Sardegna. The only special thing about them was the Terra Alta / La Fatarella stage with a long tarmac section inside a gravel stage.

Balance shift towards gravel

The number of rallies remains in 14, to which it was updated last year. If we want to think about the balance of the season, it’s easy to think of New Zealand replacing Australia as a medium-fast gravel rally and Japan replacing Corsica as a mountainous tarmac rally.

With Spain gone, there are now only three tarmac rallies, as opposed to three and a half. Now roughly 21% of the season is tarmac, compared to 27% on the 2017 season with only 13 rallies.

More endurance

With both Kenya and Turkey on the calendar, there’s now two rallies that could be considered as rough or endurance-based. Both will test the cars and a cautious approach could be rewarded with a good result.

However, I would claim these two rallies are different in character. Turkey is a technical and slow rally driven on twisty mountain roads, where only portions of the route is extremely rocky and rough.

Meanwhile, Safari will be driven on flat terrain and will feature long straights combined by square corners. The speeds could get high on some sections, whereas sometimes the road conditions may require the drivers to slow down even if the corner wouldn’t need it. Some roads could be soft or resembling tracks with surprisingly soft passages.

New schedules, new challenges

Three rallies have moved their positions significantly: Chile is now driven a month earlier, Wales a month later and Deutschland two months later. In all cases this could mean more tricky conditions and more rain. For Deutschland, we could see new routes considered because October is harvesting time for the vineyards.

Finale on tarmac

For the first time since 1996, the season will conclude on a tarmac rally, in Japan. It’s usually beneficial to start first on the road on a tarmac rally. Also, the all-tarmac Deutschland is the third-to-last event and between them is Wales where it’s often good to start first on the road. This should remove the dilemma of having a compromised starting position because of a slight championship lead and any tactics related to it.

Future plans

Some rallies have already made a contract with the promoter beyond 2020. These rallies include Kenya, Sweden and Sardegna, which we will see on the calendar for the next three years.

There are already rumors of a rotating system to be employed in the upcoming years. We could see the return of the all-tarmac Spain already in 2021, and also a rally in France has been on the plans. Maybe this would be the combined Germany-France cross-border event Todt mentioned earlier?

It’s also been mentioned that Australia is looking for a new location for its WRC event. While they’re getting it together, a year off was taken, opening the door for New Zealand, which is not set to remain in the calendar for longer. But as we’ve seen, things can change quickly.

Cover image by Robin Capper / Flickr

EDIT 27.9. 19:30 added Finale on Tarmac chapter

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