WRC: New Zealand rally scrapped over coronavirus

Rally New Zealand was cancelled on Thursday, joining a list of races hit by the coronavirus pandemic and delaying its return to the world championship circuit after an eight-year absence.

The World Rally Championship race, scheduled for September in and around Auckland, was axed because New Zealand's borders remain closed to international travellers, organisers said in a statement.

It becomes the seventh race affected by the pandemic, after three were cancelled, two were postponed and Rally Mexico, in March, was shortened by a day.

"It became clear that with our borders closed to international travel and the logistics required to host thousands of international visitors as part of the World Rally Championship, that the September 2020 date was not practical," Rally New Zealand chief executive Michael Goldstein said.

"We are disappointed to not host the World Rally Championship in 2020 but at the same time the issues around the world put this into context," Goldstein said.

The WRC is yet to finalise a schedule for 2021 but New Zealand organisers are hopeful the race, last on the circuit in 2012, will make its return next year.

"Motorsport New Zealand and the organising team have done fantastic work so far and we are already looking ahead to the rally taking place in the near future," International Automobile Association (FIA) Rally Director Yves Matton said.

The first three legs of the WRC season took place between January and mid-March with Toyota's French driver Sebastien Ogier leading the competition.