Ley: Not fair to com­pare IRC and ERC

Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship close to Bel­gium deal for next year

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - By Jack Benyon

Euro­pean Rally Cham­pi­onship co-or­di­na­tor Jean-bap­tiste Ley has re­jected ar­gu­ments that his se­ries is go­ing back­wards – com­ments made by Ypres Rally man­ager Alain Pe­nasse last week.

Pe­nasse voiced his con­cerns that front­line com­peti­tor num­bers and man­u­fac­turer in­ter­est in to­day’s ERC wasn’t as high as it had been in the In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Rally Chal­lenge. Pe­nasse’s com­ments in Mo­tor­sport News drew a forth­right re­sponse from Ley.

“Peo­ple are talk­ing a lot about the IRC which we at Eurosport used to run, but there’s no point com­par­ing the ERC to­day with that from years ago.

“The eco­nomic cli­mate was com­pletely dif­fer­ent then and the IRC is dead. The ERC, is very much alive – the com­par­i­son I would like to make it from just be­fore we took over the pro­mo­tion of the ERC [in 2012] and now. You will find we have 318 mil­lion tele­vi­sion view­ers now and a cham­pi­onship that is very healthy.”

Ley pointed Pe­nasse in the di­rec­tion of the Ju­nior ERC, say­ing: “We have the best sup­ported Ju­nior se­ries in the world and the guys who are com­pet­ing there, we be­lieve, will be the big names of to­mor­row. And we’ll seem them grad­u­at­ing to the world cham­pi­onship, just like we have seen Kris Meeke, An­dreas Mikkelsen, Thierry Neuville and Juho Han­ni­nen grad­u­ate from our se­ries.”

Ley said he wanted Ypres to re­main in the ERC, but added that con­struct­ing a cal­en­dar for the se­ries was com­pli­cated.

“We have 14 WRC rounds we can’t clash with,” he said. “Then we have 10 rounds of our own – that’s half the week­ends of the year. It’s dif­fi­cult to make ev­ery­thing fit, but we un­der­stand the im­por­tance of Ypres. It’s one of the best in Europe and, of course, we want it to stay.”

Bosses of the Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship are con­sid­er­ing adding the Ypres Rally to the cal­en­dar for 2017, Mo­tor­sport News has learned.

It is un­der­stood that se­ries of­fi­cials are in ad­vanced talks with the event to in­clude one of Europe’s most rep­utable ral­lies on the Bri­tish cal­en­dar, just two years af­ter the cham­pi­onship took a hia­tus af­ter low en­tries.

MN re­ported last week that Ypres Rally man­ager Alain Pe­nasse and the Ypres or­gan­is­ing team have be­come dis­il­lu­sioned with the Euro­pean Rally Cham­pi­onship as man­u­fac­turer en­tries have fallen in re­cent years. Now Pe­nasse con­firms the ball is in the BRC’S court as to whether the event and cham­pi­onship join.

“I had a coffee with Ben [Tay­lor, BRC pro­moter] in Sar­dinia and we started to talk about the BRC go­ing out­side the is­land,” said Pe­nasse. “I was say­ing the BRC would be most wel­come on our rally in Ypres. I think they con­sid­ered this, but I don’t know if they are sure or not if a rally can run out­side of Bri­tain. For the mo­ment we are all think­ing about it, it’s a nice cham­pi­onship, but it’s up to the peo­ple in Eng­land [BRC or­gan­is­ers] to de­cide if they want to do this.”

The body re­spon­si­ble for run­ning the BRC – IMS – is keep­ing its op­tions open for next year al­though Ypres is be­ing strongly con­sid­ered.

Tay­lor said: “The BRC has made such a strong re­turn this year that in­ter­est is grow­ing both do­mes­ti­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally. At the mo­ment we are con­sid­er­ing all the op­tions for 2017, but we have to bal­ance sport­ing and pro­mo­tional is­sues, as well as be­ing mind­ful of our com­peti­tors and their bud­gets. But Ypres is a very pres­ti­gious and as­pi­ra­tional event and if we could make it work, then it would cer­tainly be an ex­cit­ing pos­si­bil­ity.”

It is un­der­stood that the BRC is look­ing at a switch to an eight-round cal­en­dar – which is ex­pected to be de­cided by late July – with two dropped scores, there­fore adding a round and a dropped score to this year’s for­mat. That could al­low teams and driv­ers who find the trip to Ypres too ex­pen­sive to drop the round and stick ex­clu­sively to UK events.

Bri­tish co-driver Seb Mar­shall com­peted in Ypres last week­end, and be­lieves the ad­di­tion of the event would add some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent to the BRC cal­en­dar.

“The real chal­lenge of Ypres is it’s so quick,” said Mar­shall. “Every­one who did the rally this week­end will tell you it’s such a chal­lenge. The sur­face is al­ways chang­ing; know­ing how to ap­proach the cuts. It’s to­tally dif­fer­ent to any­thing in the UK.”

The Hyundai man added the event could be­come iconic in the BRC, and that the cur­rent cham­pi­onship fron­trun­ners wouldn’t be em­bar­rassed by lo­cal driv­ers.

“I think the guys run­ning at the sharp end of the BRC would be in con­tention for the win in Ypres too, it’s not like Freddy [Loix] would over­shadow them. I think it would be a big draw for a lot of peo­ple. If you think of the im­pres­sive Tar­mac events Ypres is one that stands out. For the BRC it would be a real mar­quee event.”

The fu­ture of the ERC and Ypres to­gether re­mains un­clear. Pe­nasse crit­i­cised the se­ries for a lack of top teams en­tered this year. Both Skoda and Peu­geot have with­drawn works pro­grammes from the se­ries. The high­est fin­ish­ing reg­u­lar ERC run­ner in Ypres was Jaromir Tarabus, who fin­ished sev­enth, al­though cham­pi­onship fron­trun­ner Ka­je­tan Ka­je­tanow­icz wasn’t present and Alexey Lukyanuk crashed out. Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by David Evans

Pho­tos: FIA ERC, Jakob Ebrey

Pe­nasse: Ball in BRC’S court BRC al­ready vis­its the Cir­cuit of Ire­land

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