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WRC goes global with new races in Japan, Kenya and New Zealand

Jari Matti Latvala of Finland and Mikka Anttila of Finland compete with their Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota Yaris WRC during Day One of the FIA WRC (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

The World Rally Championship has announced that Japan, Kenya and New Zealand will return to its calendar in 2020, replacing events in Australia, Corsica and Spain.

Japan will stage the season finale next year in what will mark its first time hosting an WRC event since 2010. Kenya has not been on the calendar for 17 years, with New Zealand returning following an eight-year absence.

The Autosport website reported that Germany had been at risk of losing its spot on the calendar but it was eventually saved, with Catalunya having been dropped instead. The report added that Rally Spain will become the first event to introduce a rotation system, whereby it will be guaranteed a slot in 2021 and 2022.

WRC said the 2020 calendar reflects a more global profile and next year will mark the first time that the series has included six continents in its 48-year history.

Oliver Ciesla, managing director of WRC Promoter, which owns the championship’s commercial rights, said: “It’s no secret we wanted to further globalise the series by incorporating more events outside Europe and we’ve achieved that next year with this exciting new-look calendar.”

He added: “The return of Japan and Kenya provide a presence in the world’s largest two continents by size for the first time in more than two decades. The last time Asia and Africa appeared in the WRC together was 1999.

“The two continents are huge markets for the WRC and I thank everyone involved from both countries and the FIA who have been instrumental in returning the rallies to the calendar for 2020.

“New Zealand requires no introduction. It has a long and successful WRC history and the return of its curving billiard-table smooth special stages near Auckland will be one of the year’s highlights.”

The 2020 WRC season will get underway in Monte Carlo from January 23-26, before an event in Sweden from February 13-16. The series will then head into its ‘Latin American carnival’ run with events in Mexico from March 12-15, Chile from April 16-19 and Argentina from April 30 to May 3.

Two more European events will follow in the shape of Portugal (May 21-24) and Italy (June 4-7) before Kenya returns to the calendar from July 16-19. Finland will then play host from August 6-9, with events in New Zealand and Turkey scheduled for September 3-6 and September 24-27, respectively.

Germany will then stage its round from October 15-18, with Great Britain hosting the penultimate event from October 29 to November 1. The season will conclude in Japan from November 19-22.

Rally Japan events have traditionally been held on the northern island of Hokkaido but the 2020 leg will be based in Nagoya, on the country’s main island of Honshu.