Leaving for WRC2 has hurt Skoda and Peugeot, says ERC chief

Skoda and Peugeot are suffering because of their decision to leave the European Rally Championship for the World Rally Championship's WRC2 class, reckons ERC co-ordinator Jean-Baptiste Ley

Both manufacturers ended long relationships with the ERC and Eurosport's predecessor series the Intercontinental Rally Challenge at the end of last season.

Though Ley understands why they were drawn towards the WRC, he believes their motorsport profile has declined.

"Skoda and Peugeot were more attracted by the WRC picture," Ley told Autosport.

"It's always [better to] speak about the world rather than European for external fans and for business, but my personal feeling is that Skoda and Peugeot developed R5 cars as pure customer products and they're not selecting the best strategy on this.

"When they are in the ERC, they are at the top.

"They are under all the lights and able to win the rallies at the top of the category and they receive a very high level of media and television coverage.

"Now they have decided to jump to WRC, which could make sense, but the problem is they are not at the top level.

"Instead they are totally hidden, they are in the shadows of the real WRC manufacturers.

"From my point of view, it is not really a good strategy to increase their exposure and their business."

The works Peugeot and Skoda teams took 15 outright wins between them during the first three seasons of the relaunched ERC in 2013-15.

Skoda ran Jan Kopecky and Esapekka Lappi to the 2013 and '14 titles, but curtailed its programme last year and only contested its home event in the Czech Republic as it began to prioritise WRC2.

Pontus Tidemand's WRC2 victory in Portugal earlier this month was the first of 2016 for the works team.

Peugeot's factory Rally Academy programme has been trimmed to a single entry for Jose Antonio Suarez in WRC2 after running Craig Breen's ERC title bids in 2014/15.

The ERC is now dominated by privateers, with Breen hiring a Citroen for a victorious one-off return in Ireland.


Despite the loss of two key R5 manufacturers, Ley said there were no plans to change the technical regulations in the ERC.

He ruled out any interest in the series becoming a home for the current World Rally Cars when that series moves to new regulations in 2017.

"The best car for us is R5," Ley said.

"We took the decision to ban Regional Rally Cars last year because the cars were not cost-effective enough for the strategy we have in the ERC.

"We know how difficult it is for private drivers to find the budget for international series and that's why we put lot of logistical support on for the island rallies and €200,000-worth [£157,000] of prize money in an effort to decrease the cost.

"This [series] does not allow the most expensive cars to compete in the ERC."


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