*FIA World Motor Sport Council approves compact eight-round ERC calendar
*ERC Junior gets two separate divisions based on age and car performance
*Prize package puts the focus on career progression to the WRC
*Teams’ championship undergoes exciting revision for new season
The 2017 FIA European Rally Championship will be contested over eight events from April to October, while an exciting revamp of the FIA ERC Junior Championship was also approved at a meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Vienna today.
Structured in response to feedback from drivers and teams who were keen to cap their number of competitive outings at between six and eight events, the ERC calendar features four rallies on asphalt and four on gravel for the perfect balance of surfaces.
Kicking off with the Azores Airlines Rally from 30 March-1 April, the season concludes on Rally Liepāja in Latvia from 6-8 October. In between there will be visits to Spain for Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés, to Greece for the legendary Acropolis Rally, to Cyprus for the mixed-surface Cyprus Rally, to Poland for Rally Rzeszow, to Czech Republic for Barum Czech Rally Zlín and to Italy for Rally di Roma Capitale, an ERC newcomer for 2017. As a further cost-cutting measure, drivers will count their best six scores only.
FIA European Rally Championship calendar 2017
30 March-1 April: Azores Airlines Rallye (Portugal, gravel) ERC Junior
4-6 May: Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés (Spain, asphalt) ERC Junior
2-4 June: Acropolis Rally (Greece, gravel)
16-18 June: Cyprus Rally (Cyprus, asphalt and gravel)
3-5 August: Rally Rzeszow (Poland, asphalt) ERC Junior
25-27 August: Barum Czech Rally Zlín (Czech Republic, asphalt) ERC Junior
15-17 September: Rally di Roma Capitale (Italy, asphalt) ERC Junior
6-8 October: Rally Liepāja (Latvia, gravel) ERC Junior
New format for ERC Junior
ERC Junior will be split into two separate divisions – ERC Junior Under 27 and ERC Junior Under 28 – from 2017 based on driver age and experience. ERC Junior U27 is for drivers under the age of 27 at the start of 2017 competing in R2 cars on Pirelli tyres. With the best four rounds from six counting, the winner will receive a career progression fund worth 100,000 euros to use in ERC Junior U28 in 2018. ERC Junior U28 offers the next step on the rallying pyramid for drivers under the age of 28 ahead of 2017. Again totalling six rounds with the best four scores counting, drivers will use R5 cars. The champion will get a drive in a European round of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship as a P2 driver in a 2016-specification World Rally Car.
ERC Teams’ Championship restructured
The popular ERC Teams’ Championship undergoes significant changes for 2017. Rather than separate titles in ERC1, ERC2 and ERC3, from next year there will be one ERC Teams’ Championship with each outfit nominating a maximum of three cars, in either four- or two-wheel drive configuration or a combination of both, to score points on each event. The results of the two highest-placed drivers from a team count. And with points distributed according to the four- and two-wheel-drive classifications, a team could score a maximum of 50 points (25 points for 4WD, 25 points for 2WD) per event.
Q&A: Jean-Baptiste Ley, ERC Co-ordinator
The 2017 ERC will comprise eight events while previously 10 rounds have been included and there was an allowance for the same amount next season. Can you explain the reduction?
“We had options to run 10 events and keep in line with the 2016 season despite knowing it’s not in accordance with the resources of our teams and drivers: in the last three years even the biggest teams like ŠKODA Motorsport, Peugeot Rally Academy and LOTOS Rally Team did not participate in more than eight events per season. Taking this decision was difficult but in the end it was essential that we listened to our drivers and teams who feel eight rallies is enough in terms of available budgets.”
The Ypres Rally was a mainstay of the ERC for a number of years but it’s no longer on the calendar. Why?
“As Eurosport Events we had worked with the Ypres Rally organisers since 2006 during the IRC era, loyally supporting the event’s progression while delivering large numbers of competitors and significant media exposure including television coverage on a global scale. Our previous agreement had expired and the Ypres Rally organisers decided their event has a future without a partnership with a major international FIA championship, nor significant levels of television coverage, all under terms revised to match their own circumstances.”
Rally di Roma Capitale is new to the ERC for 2017. What does this event bring?
“We’re very pleased to be joining forces with Motorsport Italia, which launched Rally di Roma Capitale three years ago and has managed its rise as a top Italian championship event. Clearly it means a return to Italy for the ERC for the first time since 2013 when Rallye Sanremo was part of the calendar, a major target we have been working hard to achieve during the last two years. It also brings the ERC to a world-famous city, thereby creating a number of promotional opportunities. We have always put our trust in newcomers, just like we did with Rally Liepāja four years ago. Raimond Strokšs and his team bring a fresh view to the championship and manage one of the best gravel events in the ERC.”
How pleased are you with the final calendar?
“We’re very pleased because an eight-event calendar is realistic when you consider the market and economic climate. We’re also delighted to be continuing our long-term agreements with events that provide some of the best TV coverage on gravel and asphalt such as the rallies in Azores and Canaries. We also visit countries with a strong rallying heritage like Czech Republic, Italy, Portugal and Spain, reference rallies like Barum Czech Rally Zlín, former WRC events such as the Acropolis and Cyprus rallies and, to conclude, a model of organisation in the Baltics: Rally Liepāja in Latvia, home of a real rising talent in Ralfs Sirmacis. As before teams will continue to receive strong logistical support for the island rallies as we continue our efforts to keep a control on costs.”
Major changes have been made to the ERC Junior Championship. What’s your thinking?
“It’s clear there is a growing number of ERC Junior graduates and other young drivers looking to take the next step in rallying but without the financial means to run a full international campaign in an R5 car or lacking the experience required to achieve consistent success. ERC Junior U28 will bridge this gap by providing a step up in performance for ERC Junior U27 graduates, albeit in a managed environment where they will come up against like-minded drivers with similar experience. And by providing a World Rally Championship prize drive to the ERC Junior U28 champion we’re recognising the ambition of young drivers to reach the sport’s top level.”
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