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25 Feb 2013

“Rallycross is a family affair”

Category: ERC, News Posted 25.02.13 19:49 by

According to Sjaak Noordermeer and Jean Filippini, the organisers at Valkenswaard and Maasmechelen, the special charm of Rallycross is its family affair character.

 

Usually the European Rallycross scene enjoys a relaxed and calm winter season. But not this time, for since the FIA/IMG plans got public we ended up in a huge turmoil. And now, just a couple of weeks before the season starts and the storm subsides it is almost clear, that we end up with not just one but two European series. Namely the ERX series promoted by IMG and The Rallycross Challenge.

The European Rallycross Challenge (ERC) was renamed on request by FIA this Sunday. From now on the alternative European series will be known as The Rallycross Challenge. As the IMG series uses the tags RX and RallycrossRX, this means that there comes an end to the abbreviation ERC for the European Rallycross Championship after many a year.

At Valkenswaard, one of the six venues for the new series, a meeting was held between Jean Filippini, member of the management board of the Duivelsbergcircuit at Maasmechelen in Belgium (BRCV) and Sjaak Noordermeer, chairman of the Dutch Rallycross Association (NRV), which runs the Eurocircuit near Eindhoven in Holland. The Belgian and Dutch organisers have joined forces and are working on a holiday week for teams and drivers between their Rallycross Challenge events on August 11 and August 18.

ERC24 sat down with the two of them to listen to their thoughts on the situation European Rallycross is currently in. A situation they both see as uncomfortable. “But we have tried to work on the best possible alternative series besides the ERX”, emphasises Jean Filippini, a former Rallycross driver himself, backed by Toyota in the 1970s.

A second series, as from the first contacts with promoter IMG it was clear that both Maasmechelen and Valkenswaard would not join the IMG. Jean Filippini: “This was not just because it was too expensive, but it was also not clear for us what the expenses and the profits would be.” Sjaak Noordermeer, who is involved in the sport of Rallycross for more than half of his life, explains: “The IMG story was just not clear enough for us. But also the timeframe was a problem, we had to decide to join real quick. If the IMG plans would have been clearer and profitable for the sport and we would have had more time, for instance if the series would not have started before 2014, then we could have tried to find the necessary budget for it, would it have been a good concept for us to invest in.”

As a result there will be no European events in both countries, a big loss according to Filippini and Noordermeer. Belgium and Holland share no less than 40 years of experience with ERC events, both countries hosted already rounds in 1973, the first year there was a European Rallycross Championship. Not an easy situation, however, and there was a lot of explaining needed towards the organising members of BRCV and NRV and spectators alike, of why this decision was taken. Also the KNAF, the Dutch ASN, emphasised to Noordermeer and his crew the importance of joining IMG with their plans. But after explaining to the general manager of the KNAF, André Slotboom, the concerns and reasons not to join, a decision was made to look for more European venues wanting to organise an alternative European Rallycross series.

“There is need for such an alternative series, if only because the FIA is working towards a World Rallycross Championship”, Noordermeer says. “This is one of the reasons why the FIA appointed IMG as the promoter, and I have no doubt that IMG will succeed in having a World championship within a few years. But we feel that this is a step too far for our members. It is not so much the further professionalisation of our sport, but the high financial costs resulting from these plans.” He also has the idea that IMG got entangled in their big ideas: “Not just because we live in difficult financial times, but also because of the fierce reactions they have got and still get on their plans.”

For at that time the KNAF was already commissioned by the FIA to organise a Benelux Touring car race series, it was decided that the task of finding other circuits for The Rallycross Challenge was in the hands of André Slotboom. It turned out not to be too difficult to find other organisers to join. And with events in Austria, two in France and one in the Czech Republic a championship with six rounds (see calendar below) is in the making.

 

“Rallycross the way it’s meant to be”

From the very beginning it was important that the Challenge would have a real international character and not be just a fancy national championship. The events will all be run over two days. Although the French organisers will probably include the Friday as well and thus make it three day events. Noordermeer: “In Valkenswaard we are an organisation run by volunteers only. And in these times it is quite difficult to find the necessary people for running the events in their spare time, we are all sticked to the weekends.”

The Challenge is to be run under the slogan: “Ralllycross the way it is meant to be”. Noordermeer explains: “It is our believe that Rallycross is a hobby, a family affair. With mainly drivers and teams who do not earn a living from it. This has created a special charm. Don’t we all like it that we can have the close contact with drivers and teams in the paddock?” This charm is a character that both men want to keep alive.

The way the Challenge will be run in the future, more events in more countries for instance, will be decided at the end of the 2013 season. Filippini explains: “We have to see what requests will come from drivers and fans. But because we already got so much response from competitors and spectators alike we feel obligated to make it a good series.”

The Rallycross Challenge will have its opening round at the Wachauring in Austria on April 20 and 21. This event marks also the ‘40 Years of Rallycross in Austria’ jubilee, since the first ever national Austrian Rallycross event was held on April 22 1973 at the by then called Leruring. After the first international Rallycross took place on May 1 at Melk, the first ever ERC round was organised on May 13 at the Austrian venue and won by Scotsman John Taylor who eventually became the first European Rallycross champion by the end of 1973.

 

  • 2013 The Rallycross Challenge (TRC) calendar:
  • 20.04.–21.04. Wachauring at Melk (Austria)
  • 18.05.–19.05. Circuit des Ducs at Essay (France)
  • 27.07.–28.07. Circuit de Kerlabo at Cohiniac (France)
  • 10.08.–11.08. Duivelsbergcircuit at Maasmechelen (Belgium)
  • 17.08.–18.08. Eurocircuit at Valkenswaard (The Netherlands)
  • 28.09.–29.09. Autodrom Česká Lípa at Sosnová (Czech Republic)