European Rallycross set to become FIA 'world championship' by 2015
|By Ben Anderson||Thursday, August 30th 2012, 09:40 GMT|
The FIA is planning to turn its European Rallycross Championship into a world category after signing a deal with a new promoter.
The ERC will drop its 'European' tag from next season as international sports promoter IMG is brought in to run the series.
IMG, which represents three-time Formula 1 world champion Jackie Stewart, Caterham F1 driver Heikki Kovalainen and US racing starlet Danica Patrick, has already been responsible for increasing the international profile of Speedway GP motorcycling.
The series, which will be known as the FIA Rallycross Championship from 2013, is expected to retain the calendar and venues of the existing ERC initially, but will incorporate a new 'speedway-style' race format.
This will mean a simpler structure replacing the current system of best lap times from qualifying heats being used to determine grids for finals.
Instead, finishing positions from the heats, in which all drivers will race each other during a round-robin format, will determine grids for semi-finals.
The best drivers from the semi-finals will go through to the finals.
There is also a desire to 'professionalise' the championship, turning existing ERC aces such as Timur Timerzyanov, Liam Doran and Tanner Foust into household names by contracting them to compete.
Each event is expected to contain 25 drivers in the top-level Supercar category, and IMG will invite 'wildcard' celebrity drivers to race against regular competitors.
FIA Rallycross is expected to morph into the discipline's first world championship over the next two seasons, and there is hope this will encourage more manufacturers into the discipline.
Kenneth Hansen, the most successful driver in rallycross history with 14 ERC titles, said: "Years ago I sat with Tony Rickardsson [speedway rider] and we both wondered why our sports were not big.
"Then speedway got a promoter, it became huge, Tony won world championships and is a big star, and I watched that happen while rallycross stood still.
"It's sometimes difficult to understand why things should change, but this is the best thing that has ever happened for rallycross.
"It's a great chance for everyone - drivers, teams, events and fans – that we must take."
The FIA/IMG initiative is entirely separate from the fledgling Global Rallycross initiative currently running in the USA, but it is understood that the two championships are in discussions to avoid date clashes in their respective 2013 calendars.