Rally LiepÄja, the opening round of the 2016 FIA European Rally Championship, will not take place as scheduled because of uncharacteristically warm weather conditions.
The final decision to put off the event, which was due to take place on 5-7 February, was taken by the rally organizer on Friday following the latest in a number of recent inspections of the stages in Latvia.
The inspection found that rain and ambient temperatures above freezing over recent weeks have damaged the surface of the stages, causing concerns for competitor and spectator safety on the event. The rally also takes place on public roads that are in daily use and vital to the local infrastructure. Potential damage to these roads would cause disruption for an extended period of time.
Competitors have been kept informed to minimize unnecessary travel and inconvenience, while dialogue is now underway between the event organiser and the ERC promoter, Eurosport Events, to determine whether it will be possible to reschedule the event later in the year although any new date will require the approval of the FIA World Motor Sport Council.
Jean-Baptiste Ley, the ERC Co-ordinator, said: â€œSafety is always the number one concern and with safety very much in mind the organisers were left with no alternative other than to postpone Rally LiepÄja until later in the year. The organizers have also considered the interests of the communities living on the event route because running the rally with no ice covering the stages would have resulted in considerable damage to roads that are essential for use on a daily basis. Obviously we are extremely disappointed with this development and our sympathies go out to the organizers and the many volunteers who have been working day and night to arrange what is always one of the highlights of the ERC season. Weâ€™re well aware of how many disappointed fans there will be and weâ€™re also more than aware of the work the drivers, co-drivers and teams have been putting in to get ready for the rally. However, while we are looking at all the options to reschedule the event to later in the year, there is now more time to get ready for Rally Islas Canarias, which will become the opening event of the ERC season from 10-12 March.â€