The 2021 FIA World Rally Championship calendar received another tweak this week as Rally Finland announced it would be taking an autumnal date to allow it the best chance to be able to host spectators.
The move from the summer has been forced by the current restrictions on spectator gatherings introduced from the Finnish government to help stem the spread of COVID-19 cases in the country.
The 70th anniversary Rally Finland will now take place on the new date of 30 September 2021 – 3 October 2021, mirroring the very first event 70 years ago which took place in the autumn of 1951.
Riku Bitter, Chairman and CEO of AKK Sports Oy said: “While we would like nothing more than for Rally Finland to take place in the summer, the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic means we could not go ahead with arranging the event with the lack of certainty that members of the public could attend.
“Unlike Arctic Rally Finland, which was held to great acclaim in February, Rally Finland is very much a made-for-spectators event and we need fans to make it work. Although there is no certainty that we will be able to welcome fans in October, we hope the rollout of the vaccination programme will go a long way to making this possible.
“We thank all the local authorities, the FIA and WRC Promoter for accommodating the new dates. We are sorry for any inconvenience the change causes but we are convinced it will be in the best interests of the rally, the stakeholders and all the fans.”
Officials at the FIA and WRC were also keen to embrace the flexibility of the date for the event to allow spectators back safely.
FIA Rally Director Yves Matton said: “A founding round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Rally Finland is a historical and unmissable event on the WRC roster, with its spectacular forest scenery and super-fast roller coaster gravel roads.
“It was important for us to be flexible and consider every option to ensure it would find its place on the calendar this year despite ongoing issues brought about by the pandemic.
“It will be an interesting change to see it take place at the beginning of October, certainly with slightly different weather conditions, and hopefully with spectators.”
Simon Larkin, Event Director at the WRC Promoter, added “Like all international sporting fixtures around the world, the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship calendar continues to be impacted by Covid-19. Through Rally Finland’s switch in dates from late-July to October, we believe this will give the best opportunity for fans to join us in the forests around Jyväskylä.
“The passion and enthusiasm of the fans in Finland is legendary and that atmosphere has unfortunately been missing during the pandemic, so we will take every chance to allow them to be safely welcomed back.”
Work is continuing on finalizing the event route and details of this will be published once complete. Event organisers did confirm however that the Jyväskylä’s Pavilonki exhibition and conference centre will host the event headquarters, media centre and service park.