Northern Ireland’s proposed round of the World Rally Championship in August has been replaced on the calendar by the Ypres Rally in Belgium.
The United Kingdom’s WRC event was set to move from its traditional setting in Wales to Northern Ireland for 2021.
However the financial challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic has meant the necessary funding is not available.
Discussions are ongoing about the WRC returning to Northern Ireland in 2022.
Jona Siebel, managing director of the WRC Promoter, said Ypres would provide “one of the season’s sternest challenges” but has kept open the door for a return to Northern Ireland in the future.
“It’s sad the WRC will not enjoy the beauty of Northern Ireland this year, but the pandemic continues to impact the global economy. Our enthusiasm for a WRC round there remains strong and we look forward to continuing our discussions for 2022,” he said.
The cross-border Rally Ireland appeared on the WRC calendar in 2007 and 2009. The GB stage of the World Rally Championships has been held in Wales since 2000, but in 2020 was cancelled due to Covid-19.
Rally Northern Ireland promoter Bobby Willis said that funding was unavailable to support a successful WRC event this year due to the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.
“Tourism Northern Ireland recognises that hosting Rally Northern Ireland in 2021 represented a positive opportunity to profile the region globally, and would serve to celebrate Northern Ireland’s motorsport heritage,” said Willis.
“However, it feels Covid-19 could diminish the substantial economic benefits WRC historically bestows upon its host regions, and therefore investment would not represent best value for public money at this time.
“We must accept the situation for 2021 and focus on our discussions to explore the avenues for 2022.”