The Munich-based company has added another FIA series to its burgeoning business portfolio, having managed the commercial rights to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) since 2013.
In February, the two parties also agreed to work together to implement the 2021 FIA World and European Rallycross Championships. Since then, Rallycross Promoter GmbH has been established with a view to concluding a multi-year promotional agreement.
The decision was confirmed at yesterday’s FIA World Motor Sport Council in Monaco, and all support series within the ERC framework are included in the new agreement.
In March, the FIA outlined a five-tier sporting pyramid for rallying around the WRC and ERC. The WRC sits at its peak, based around exciting new top-level hybrid Rally1 cars, due to be introduced in 2022.
The next level features the ERC and the WRC’s primary support category, with additional tiers featuring feeder categories in both championships, built on an entry-level fifth rung.
The pyramid positions the ERC title both as a goal in itself and as a ‘talent factory’ feeder series to the WRC, by providing a clear pathway from grass roots competition up to the highest level in WRC.
WRC Promoter managing director Jona Siebel said both championships would be managed individually, but taking advantage of common synergies wherever possible.
“The FIA has entrusted the group with the commercial rights for another major championship. Having built a strong track record in promoting the WRC during the last nine seasons, we’re in a perfect position to add the ERC to our portfolio,” Siebel added.
“We have a high level of organisational, promotional and broadcast experience in our team and look forward with great confidence to working alongside the FIA to develop the ERC as an integral part of the Rally Pyramid.
“We see strong growth potential in ERC, focused around Europe’s key markets. Our goal is to further cultivate its own identity, whilst at the same time ensuring it fits hand and glove with the WRC’s structure.”
FIA Secretary General for Sport, Peter Bayer, said: “I’m delighted that the FIA and WRC Promoter have agreed on the promotion of the FIA European Rally Championship with a shared vision.
“This new structure with a single promoter for the World and European-level series will genuinely strengthen the FIA Rally Pyramid, creating bridges between the two championships and a clear career path for the drivers. WRC Promoter will bring their strong experience to the European tier and I’m confident the series will thrive.
“I would also like to thank Eurosport Events, Andrew Georgiou and his team for the significant and excellent contribution to the ERC over the years. The relationship will continue with them staying on board within the FIA family as the promoter of several circuit-based competitions.”
François Ribeiro, Head of Eurosport Events, the ERC promoter, said: “We are proud to hand over the reins of the ERC to WRC Promoter. Since 2013, Eurosport Events has been very consistent in partnership with the FIA to build a close relationship with our ERC customers, namely the rallies, teams, drivers, partners and broadcasters. It’s great credit to Jean-Baptiste Ley’s leadership that the ERC is likely to reach 150 competitor entries by the end of the 2021 season having never been so strong since 2013. It has always been a profitable exercise as a business case for a promoter.
“Since our first step into rallying, it’s been amazing to see young talents such as Mikkelsen, Neuville, Meeke, Lappi, Breen, Kopecký, Gryazin, Huttunen and, most recently, Oliver Solberg upgrading to the WRC and becoming professional drivers. The ERC has also been an excellent platform for customer racing departments to showcase their products and sell cars.
“Despite the obstacles we’ve faced, our commitment to the ERC family has never diminished and that commitment will be maintained until the end of the 2021 season.
“Our fundamental objective has always been to put the best interests of the ERC at heart. Having maintained the ERC’s heritage yet transformed it into the successful championship it is now, our overriding concern was to ensure the momentum we started nine years ago continues. After taking the decision not to seek an extension to our 10-year contract with the FIA as we switch our priority to promoting the FIA’s all-electric GT and Touring Car categories, the correct course of action was to pass on the batten as quickly as possible to the next promoter to ensure a seamless transition.
“We are also following the wish of FIA President Jean Todt for both the ERC and WRC to be organised by one promoter rather than two. The ERC has an exciting future and we have every faith in the team at WRC Promoter being able to drive it forward.”
Jean-Baptiste Ley, the ERC Co-ordinator, said: “Throughout our tenure as ERC promoter, we’ve always understood the importance of providing a clear path of progression from national level to the world stage and we are extremely proud of the number of drivers who have stepped up from the ERC to the WRC. It’s clear that link needs to be strengthened for the good of the sport and with one promoter behind both championships the ERC can only get stronger. Our gratitude and appreciation go to everyone who has contributed to the ERC’s ongoing success story.”