Belgium rally added to WRC calendar as N.Ireland drops off

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Belgium driver Thierry Neuville will get the chance to compete in a WRC rally on his home turf for the first time after Ypres Rally Belgium was added to the 2021 calendar

Ypres Rally Belgium has been included in the revised calendar for the 2021 world championship season, replacing the coronavirus-affected Northern Ireland Rally in August, the organisers announced on Friday.

Although Ypres is a well-established rally in Europe, it is the first time it appears in the world championship and marks the first WRC rally in Belgium.

Ypres was due to host a hastily-arranged rally in November but the spread of the global pandemic, which has killed amost 1.9 million people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, prompted its cancellation.

It replaces the UK's proposed leg in Northern Ireland which has been put off because of "uncertainty over public funding relative to the coronavirus pandemic", the organisers said in a statement.

Ypres first held a rally in 1965 and has established itself as one of Europe's most demanding races.

It will take place across three days in August, although the precise dates have yet to be released.

"Ypres has been a hugely popular cornerstone of European rallying for more than half a century," said Jona Siebel, managing director of WRC.

"Its tricky mix of narrow asphalt lanes with big ditches lining the roads, allied with some stages in the dark and the potential for mixed weather, will provide plenty of thrills and spills for fans."

The season, which is due to start with the Monte Carlo Rally later this month, has already suffered a setback with the pandemic causing the cancellation of the second round in Sweden.

Calendar for the 2021 WRC season

January 21-24 - Monte-Carlo Rally

April 22-25 - Rally of Croatia

May 20-23 - Rally of Portugal

June 3-6 - Rally Italy

June 24-27 - Safari Rally Kenya

July 15-18 - Rally of Estonia

July 29-August 1 - Rally of Finland

August - Ypres Rally Belgium

September 9-12 - Rally of Chile

October 14-17 - Rally of Spain

November 11-14 - Rally of Japan

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