The IRC is the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (it was International Rally Challenge when it was created). It was originally set up for young and amateur drivers looking to get onto international rallies. Over the years, it has got more like the WRC in that manufactures (Skoda and Proton) have joined the ‘importers’ (Peugeot, Ford, Abarth and Skoda(yes again)) in the championship. Its also getting more appealing for WRC teams this year due to its use of Super 2000 machines-what the WRC will be using next year. Another thing that makes it appealing to both watch and to enter is that the rallies are either former WRC rallies (Monte Carlo rally), rallies with classic stages(Rally of Scotland) and critically, rallies that operate in the WRC’s rotation(Rally Argentina, Cyprus Rally). There was a rumour earlier this year that the WRC and IRC would merge, but with the 2 series’, it gives countries or rallies that don’t have a chance 1 year on the WRC, the chance to run on the almost equally acclaimed IRC calender. The important point here is that the 2 series, despite being run by different organisations, work perfectly together and don’t get in each others way, unlike the Champ Car/IndyCar ‘debacle’.
So is this perfect balance a catalyst for a rival series to F1? A new series could run between F1 weekends or have double headers at some tracks. The tracks could be some that deserve to be/have been on the F1 calender yet can’t for various reasons (such as Road America, Brands Hatch, Motorland Aragon, Adelaide, Dubai and Imola), some that are in rotation (Hockenheim/Nurburgring) or some that are currently on the F1 schedule(such as a Singapore double header-one during the day, F1 at night, or a Spa, Turkey or Monza also joining the new series). This new series could also lead to more rotation for F1 venues that can’t afford a GP every year, like Spa, where they could have F1 one season, and the new series the next year. Like the IRC, manufactures could be either omitted or be a rarity, making the focus be more on privateers and the drivers. It could also have different regulations to F1, with maybe a template car that teams could develop to a certain level, with a different type of engine(V10?). The drivers could be from F1 teams (similar to IRC here, as Ford entered a car for Hirvonen and Citroen/Peugeot for Ogier), or just people who cant find an F1 seat and have an opportunity in another international series. So what do you think, Could the WRC/IRC system work for a rival F1 series?
No. The reason why the IRC has started thriving is because the regulations are much better-suited to manufacturers than the WRC. The WRC has been bleeding marques for years; there was a time not so long ago when Ford, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Hyundai, Citroen and Skoda all regularly deatured, but now there’s just Ford and Citroen. It also hasn’t helped that Sebastien Loeb is nigh on untouchable. Mikko Hirvonen has been his only serious challenger for a while now.
The other barrier to creating a rival series is that Formula 1 has a stranglehold on everything. If ever a rival series tried to start up with the intention of being a rival series, you can bet that Bernie Ecclestone will move to block them from using any of the circuits Formula 1 visits. Likewise, teams will prevent their drivers from crossing over into the other series; Jenson Button, for one, has said that his commitments to Formula 1 prevent him from picking up a “Wildcard” entry for the V8 Supercars. If he can’t run in a one-off touring car event, what chance is there of appearing in a rival open-wheel series? And then there’s four feeder categories (Formula 2, Formula 3, GP2 and GP3) that a rival series would have to battle to establish its credibility, not to mention championships like Indycar, A1GP, the World Series by Renault, AutoGP and Superleague Formula that have all variously tried to compete with Formula 1 – or at least run parallel to it – with varying degrees of success.
At the end of the day, there’s simply no potential for a rival series. It’s unneeded, unnecessary and a waste of time, effort and money. There is simply no way it could establish itself as a genuine rival.
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