This year’s European Rally Championship is off to an encouraging start with 40 Rally2 cars on the Rally Serras de Fafe entry list – including two World Rally Championship event winners and four Junior WRC champions, as well as last year’s ERC champion.
That compares with 28 Rally2 cars and just one JWRC champion in 2022.
Clearly, there is an increased hype around the ERC in 2023, but why?
For championship manager Iain Campbell the answer lies in 2022 – the first year under WRC Promoter’s stewardship – which he feels was key in proving to competitors what the value in the championship is.
“We’re seeing an increased level of interest this year, and I think there are multiple reasons for that,” Campbell told DirtFish.
“Last year was a learning curve – certainly for me because I was brand-new in the job – but also for everybody involved, because it was the WRC Promoter’s first year at the helm.
“I think some people took last year to watch and see how everything would pan out. They obviously liked what they saw – and I think the interest that’s come into the championship this year is a result of the work the team did in showing the fantastic product that WRC Promoter is bringing.
“The beauty of ERC is that, here, you can be the star. You can fight for overall wins – you can be the headline maker. All Live is bringing these crews and their partners more exposure than ever before, and this increased visibility is crucial for those looking to advance their careers and gain recognition among a wider audience.
“On top of that, with four tire manufacturers involved, there is a battle for supremacy amongst them and that helps to support driver’s budgets to compete in a very open field.”
Campbell is confident that the high-quality entry for round one can be sustained throughout the eight-round season too.
“To have 13 world, regional or national champions on the start list for round one is amazing. And they are not just here to just dip their toe in – they are here to be ERC champion at the end of the year.
“Some of the crews that have entered Fafe are doing it likely as a one-off purely to get familiar for WRC Portugal, but there is a very strong percentage that are there and have the budget to do between six and eight ERC rounds this year, with a good number saying that they’re doing the full season. This is where we will measure the championship.
“As with all ERC events, there are local superstars that are there – I think we can say for Fafe there are seven – and we will expect to see a similar trend at every round we go to.
“But that’s another aspect which makes the ERC so exciting. The local heroes can come in and battle against the best in Europe, and perhaps even cause an upset against the championship challengers.”