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Ypres could quit European Rally Championship as it goes "backwards"

The European Rally Championship could lose one of its most famous names, with the Ypres Rally ready to walk away from a series it says is going "backwards"

Ypres manager Alain Penasse says the now privateer-dominated ERC is a far cry from the heyday of its Intercontinental Rally Challenge predecessor.

IRC main players Skoda and Peugeot ended their factory ERC programmes in 2014/15.

"We are quite disappointed about the ERC, this is going backwards and backwards and backwards," Penasse told Autosport.

"You have a lot of competitors at an amateur level who are quite good, but there's no leading teams anymore.

"People had a huge interest in the IRC when it was there.

"There was so much competition in that championship, but now you see it's only two boys playing the championship."

ERC chief: Leaving for WRC2 has hurt Peugeot and Skoda

Penasse is also concerned by the calendar logistics.

"There are a lot of islands in there and, yes, the organisers give good support for this, but it's the manpower you have to have to run in the ERC," he said.

"If you do Gran Canaria, it takes one or two mechanics away for three weeks and your car is also away for this long.

"We have the same problem with Azores: by the time the cars are back, it's already too late for Ypres.

"It's never helping and we have to think and remember these guys are privateers and it's too complicated for them.

"It doesn't help that the events aren't really in a logical order."

Asked about the future for Ypres in the ERC, Penasse added: "We have to look at how it goes next year and what is there - we need Skoda Motorsport and Peugeot Sport coming back.

"If we do that, then immediately it looks better and these teams being there will bring more entries."

ERC general co-ordinator Jean-Baptiste Ley argued comparisons with the IRC, which played a major role in launching the careers of Andreas Mikkelsen, Thierry Neuville and Kris Meeke before merging with the previous generation ERC, were unfair.

"I understand the comparison with the IRC, but for me it's better that we compare the European Rally Championship today with the ERC before Eurosport took it over: we have more cars and much more television coverage; we really raised the ERC level," Ley said.

"The IRC is for history, it came at a time when the world was a different place in terms of the economy.

"As for the calendar question, it's difficult when we have 10 rallies and we have to avoid a clash with any of the 14 [World Rally Championship] rounds."

LOIX/BOUFFIER IN, TANAK OUT

This weekend's Ypres has attracted one of the strongest ERC entries of the year so far, with 10-time winner Freddy Loix, 2011 Monte Carlo winner Bryan Bouffier and Citroen WRC protege Stephane Lefebvre taking on championship contender Alexey Lukyanuk.

Points leader Kajto Kajetanowicz is skipping Ypres and a planned entry for DMACK WRC driver Ott Tanak was cancelled due to a hand injury for the Estonian.

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