ERC talks the talk, promises to walk the walk (even better) in 2014

“There’s a silence surrounding me”, says the WRC, officially at least. There is plenty in store, some bits of info made their way out of the FIA and WRC Promoter’s vaults, but for now, we still cannot paint a complete picture of what the World Rally Championship will be like in 2014. As is the case with many other things concerning the WRC and it’s sibling, European Rally Championship, the latter is, more or less, total opposite. There may be no big news coming out of WRC’s mouth, but ERC is blowing its trumpet full steam.

For 2014 ERC plans further improvements and changes aimed at cost cutting on one side and on the other they’re keen to keep the healthy growth of the series by making it more appealing to car manufacturers. Qualifying stages are going to be ditched from the WRC, but ERC have decided to use them. Junior championship will also take place within the ERC next year. I do hope I’m not mistaken when I say that this particular series is looking quite well and ready for an even better year, starting very soon with the Janner rally in Austria. Did I mention the travel subsidies for “long haul” events? How does a free boat and plane tickets for car and crew sound? I know, right!

Here’s what the ERC and their promoters Eurosport Events announced today.

New developments for 2014 ERC revealed

FIA European Rally Championship promoter Eurosport Events is delighted to announce several exciting developments for the 2014 season. All proposals are subject to approval by the World Motor Sport Council at its meeting in December.

FIA ERC Manufacturers’ Cup

As a direct response to the increased interest from manufacturers planning to contest the FIA European Rally Championship in 2014, Eurosport Events has proposed to the FIA the creation of the FIA ERC Manufacturers’ Cup. It will replace the European Rally Championship for Teams and will be run on all 12 rounds of the 2014 ERC with the two highest-placed cars from each make according to the final official classification scoring points towards an overall classification. There will also be separate Manufacturers’ Cups for ERC Production Car and ERC 2WD competitors.
FIA ERC Junior Championship

Another new initiative for 2014, the FIA ERC Junior Championship will be contested over seven events on a variety of surfaces with drivers counting their best four scores. Drivers must be 25 and under on 1 January 2014 to be able to take part and must use R2-specification cars. Only drivers competing with an R2 car from a brand registered with the FIA will be eligible. A control tyre supplier will provide tyres for sale and pump fuel only, provided by one supplier, will be allowed. ERC Junior championship entrants will be seeded together on events, starting behind the four-wheel-drive crews to help promotion and filming. A special entry fee of 1000 Euros will be set for ERC Junior competitors on each of the seven events. The winning driver will get the use of an R5 car for selected ERC events in 2015. Further awards and incentives will be announced in due course. Eurosport Events will organise a dedicated promotion throughout the season, including a dedicated television package. Training programmes during rallies will also be provided.

The ERC Junior Championship will be contested over the following seven events (subject to FIA World Motor Sport Council approval):
01: Rally Liepāja (Latvia), Gravel/snow, 31 January-2 February 2014
02: Circuit of Ireland Rally (United Kingdom), Asphalt, 17-19 April 2014
03: 49th SATA Rallye Açores (Portugal), Gravel, 15-17 May 2014*
04: Geko Ypres Rally (Belgium), Asphalt, 19-21 June 2014
05: Barum Czech Rally Zlín (Czech Republic), Asphalt, 29-31 August 2014
06: Rallye International du Valais (Switzerland), Asphalt/gravel, 23-25 October 2014
07: Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse (France), Asphalt, 6-8 November 2014

*ERC Junior Championship contesting SATA Rallye Açores will receive free return boat travel for a service vehicle towing a rally car plus six free return airplane tickets. Journeys to start from Lisbon

Further cost-cutting measures for 2014

Following the ERC’s successful efforts to reduce costs by limiting the amount of tyres that can be used on each event to 20 (plus four for Free Practice and Qualifying Stage), the ERC’s proposals to restrict tyre use by competitors in two-wheel-drive machinery were accepted by the meeting of the FIA Rally Commission in Geneva. From the start of the 2014 season, ERC 2WD Championship competitors will be able to use a maximum of 16 tyres plus four for shakedown). In a further move to reduce expenditure, the FIA Rally Commission approved an ERC proposal to introduce pump fuel as standard for all drivers contesting rounds of the ERC provided by a single supplier. Furthermore, organisers of SATA Rallye Açores and the Cyprus Rally will provide significant travel subsidies to ERC competitors planning to contest those events.

Qualifying Stage on each ERC event

On all rounds of the 2014 FIA European Rally Championship, FIA and ERC priority drivers will complete two runs of Free Practice before tackling a Qualifying Stage. The results of the Qualifying Stage will be used to determine the starting order for leg one with the driver setting the fastest time in Qualifying choosing their starting position first at a public-focused Start Selection Ceremony followed by the second fastest driver and so on until all FIA and ERC priority drivers have made their selection. Following the Qualifying Stage, all other competitors will undertake a period of shakedown.

Titles up for grabs in next year’s ERC

In summary, the following titles will be contested in the FIA European Rally Championship in 2014:
FIA European Rally Championship for Drivers
FIA European Rally Championship for Co-drivers
FIA ERC Manufacturers’ Cup
FIA ERC Production Car Cup for Drivers
FIA ERC Production Car Cup for Co-drivers
FIA ERC Manufacturers’ Cup for Production Car
FIA ERC 2WD Championship for Drivers
FIA ERC 2WD Championship for Co-drivers
FIA ERC Manufacturers’ Cup for 2WD
FIA ERC Junior Championship for Drivers
The ERC Ladies’ Trophy will also be contested in 2014