The WRC calendar of 2021 looks again quite different than before with lots of tarmac rallies and European events. This could actually be the fastest WRC season ever. Read this post to find out why!
Cover photo by Kyn Wai Chung / Flickr
Granted, this post should have been made already way before Monte, but then again the calendar already changed just the week before.
The Ins and outs
The 2021 WRC calendar has three new events on its current edition. Croatia was already added into the initial calendar, while Ypres took the place of a British round. In addition, Arctic Rally Finland is a replacement for Sweden, meaning that there will be two rallies in Finland (like there were two in Italy in 2020).
Like mentioned, Britain will be absent again, although they made it to the initial calendar. Meanwhile, Rally Deutschland was probably off due to a planned rotation within the European events.
Rally de Espana is making its planned comeback after a year off, and it will now be an all-tarmac rally, as the FIA Sporting Regulations don’t allow mixed surface events to be run anymore. Chile is also back on the calendar after last year’s cancellation – which wasn’t yet a result of COVID-19 – but now run in September instead of April.
Furthermore, Rally Estonia secured its place on the regular calendar after making a good replacement event in 2020. They also announced extending the contract to 2022 with the WRC Promoter.
Meanwhile, many long-haul rallies such as Mexico, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand are off the calendar this year, as is Rally Turkey. In the end, only three events are situated outside Europe. This is most likely a plea from the teams to cut down the costs, although the WRC Promoter was proud about the initial 2020 calendar which had rallies on six continents.
Here is the calendar with the surfaces listed:
|1||Rallye Monte-Carlo||21.01. – 24.01.2021||snow/tarmac|
|2||Arctic Rally Finland||26.02. – 28.02.2021||snow|
|3||Croatia Rally||22.04. – 25.04.2021||tarmac|
|4||Rally de Portugal||20.05. – 23.05.2021||gravel|
|5||Rally Italia Sardegna||03.06. – 06.06.2021||gravel|
|6||Safari Rally Kenya||24.06. – 27.06.2021||gravel|
|7||Rally Estonia||15.07. – 18.07.2021||gravel|
|8||Rally Finland||29.07. – 01.08.2021||gravel|
|9||Ypres Rally Belgium||13.08. – 15.08.2021||tarmac|
|10||Rally Chile||09.09. – 12.09.2021||gravel|
|11||Rally de España||14.10. – 17.10.2021||tarmac|
|12||Rally Japan||10.11. – 13.11.2021||tarmac|
The first thing we see is that there is a lot of tarmac rallies. The season packs in four and a half tarmac rallies if we count Monte as half, making it 37.5%* of the whole season, which is more than the WRC has ever had before. In 2002 and 2003 there were also four full tarmac events plus Monte, but the total number of events was greater. Normally the amount of tarmac events is 19-25%*.
On the flipside, only 50%* of the events are gravel. This is similarly the lowest the WRC has ever had, equal to the 1995 season. Normally the amount of gravel events is 64-69%*.
Tthe season ends now on not just one but two tarmac rallies. This will be good for the series because the championship leader won’t have a compromising starting position on the decider events like it would be on gravel.
We can also dig deeper into the characteristics of the events. Out of the tarmac rallies, Spain and Japan have a mountainous terrain with fast-flowing smooth tarmac roads. I don’t know much about Croatia, but I’ve understood that it’s similar to the two aforementioned. Meanwhile, Ypres has its own distinct character with a flat countryside terrain, ditches on the side of the road, big cuts making the tarmac dirty, as well as angular rhythm instead of long flowing medium-speed corners.
On the gravel side we can see that there’s a lack of a Turkey/Acropolis-style very slow and rough rally. Instead there’s Safari, which is again different to any other event that we have seen in a while, except maybe for some parts of Rally Argentina. Obviously there will be slow parts, but it will be more down to the condition of the road (or lack of it) rather than twisty technical corners. Instead, many long savanna straights will likely make the average speeds of some stages very high. At least it has been so on the candidate event and national editions, and we could expect the WRC cars to absorb the bumps much better than Group N Mitsubishis!
Meanwhile, there’s now three distinctively fast rallies. We could expect Arctic Rally Finland to be faster than Rally Sweden as a snow event, and then we have both Estonia and Finland, even back-to-back with a two-week gap (and Ypres two weeks after them!).
In fact, this could be one of the fastest seasons ever with the lack of a very slow rally and many fast ones instead, and the fastest cars ever on their last year of development!
Here’s the calendar with my characteristic classifications added
|1||Rallye Monte-Carlo||mountainous snow/tarmac|
|2||Arctic Rally Finland||fast snow|
|3||Croatia Rally||mountainous smooth tarmac (?)|
|4||Rally de Portugal||slow to medium fast technical gravel|
|5||Rally Italia Sardegna||slow to medium fast technical gravel|
|6||Safari Rally Kenya||fast-rough gravel|
|7||Rally Estonia||fast gravel|
|8||Rally Finland||fast gravel|
|9||Ypres Rally Belgium||angular countryside tarmac|
|10||Rally Chile||slow to medium fast technical gravel|
|11||Rally de España||mountainous smooth tarmac|
|12||Rally Japan||mountainous smooth tarmac|
We can see how it splits evenly between three mountainous smooth tarmac rallies, three fast rallies and three technical gravel rallies. Then there’s three rallies with each having their unique characteristics.
If we compare this to something like 2018 which had all of Mexico, Argentina, Portugal, Sardegna and Turkey as technical gravel rallies (as well as the Spanish gravel stages), only one fast gravel rally and only two pure tarmac rallies, it’s definitely a different type of a season.
The calendar could obviously still change, like it has already done. FIA and WRC Promoter have agreed on a list of reserve events in case COVID-19 causes further cancellations. These events include Turkey, Latvia, Argentina, Acropolis and Monza. In fact, Ypres was one of them, already brought in from the bench. We could still see one more tarmac rally in the form of Monza, a fourth fast rally in the form of Latvia (most likely Rally Liepaja), or a slow technical rally if Turkey or Acropolis gets the call.
FIA has also added in the sporting regulations that half of the original amount of events must be run in order to award the championship titles. This means that six rallies must be run this year.
Many rallies will likely be held without spectators. Meanwhile, we can only hope the situation gets better.
* = the percentages are calculated by dividing the number of tarmac events with the total number of events. The stage mileage isn’t taken into account.