The FIA European Rally Championship will undergo several changes for the 2015 season, each designed to strengthen the series and reduce costs for competitors.
For the first time, the championship will be contested over a maximum of ten events with drivers, co-drivers and teams being required to register with the FIA, as is the case with the WRC support championships, to be eligible for European championship points.
In other changes proposed by ERC promoter Eurosport Events Ltd and approved by the FIA Rally Commission at a meeting in Paris on 28 May, it was agreed that there would be modifications to the ERC structure to closely mirror the format used in the WRC.
The overall ERC title will be earmarked for drivers, co-drivers and teams using R5, Regional Rally Cars and Super 2000 cars. A maximum of eight scores will be taken into account, four from the first half of the season and four from the second half.
The new ERC2 category will be for traditional Group N and R4 cars with prolonged FIA homologation for three years, while ERC3 will cater for two-wheel-drive machinery conforming to FIA Regional Rally Regulations.
ERC Junior, introduced to great acclaim for the 2014 season, will continue, albeit known as Junior ERC for consistency purposes. Drivers will count their best four scores from six nominated events rather than the current seven. As is currently the case, Junior ERC drivers will be restricted in age and must use R2-specification cars on Michelin tyres. They will also enrol in a training programme and chase a prize drive in an R5 car on ERC events, full details of which will be announced in the coming months.
There will be awards for drivers, co-drivers and teams in ERC2 and ERC3, with ERC2 drivers counting four scores in each half of the season. ERC3 competitors can score points on six occasions, three in each half of the season. Junior ERC drivers, co-drivers and teams will be eligible for ERC3 points, but there will only be a drivers' classification in Junior ERC.
In addition, the total stage length for each round will be reduced to 220 kilometres, unless agreed otherwise by Eurosport Events Ltd, while tyre quantities will be further restricted following consultation with the tyre manufacturers. The championship registration fee payable to the FIA has yet to be set but will be kept to a reasonable level.
A proposal document detailing all the changes will be presented to the FIA Rally Commission for final approval when it meets at the end of August.
“Adapting the ERC to the current market conditions but, at the same time, maintaining the championship's high standards is the priority of Eurosport Events Ltd,” series co-ordinator Jean-Baptiste Ley explained, “From engaging all ERC stakeholders through regular meetings, the clear message we have received is to consolidate the number of rounds and make the ERC more affordable for those taking part.
“The changes and cost-cutting measures proposed to the last FIA Rally Commission should be welcomed by drivers and teams, while Eurosport Events Ltd will maintain its promotional efforts in the ERC. Eurosport Events Ltd will also try to introduce prize money for independent teams to encourage a high number of entrants, including R5 customers. With four different R5 cars on the market next year, we expect serious competition ahead in the ERC as a stepping-stone to the WRC.”