Sports marketing giant puts its weight behind Rallycross
The FIA has appointed IMG as promoter of its Rallycross Championship starting from 2013. The FIA Rallycross Championship will replace the current FIA European Championship for Rallycross Drivers and is intended to grow into a World championship. The deal is IMG’s first the with FIA and will bring to Rallycross the full weight of the sports marketing giant. IMG is the biggest and oldest company of its kind and combines its management with TV rights sales in which it is also the market leader. IMG’s success in transforming Speedway can be seen as an example for what the company can do for Rallycross; Speedway was broadcast in 24 countries but is now seen in 160 territories around the world, live broadcasts of the Speedway GP series taken by more than 40 countries and the sport has become so popular that in Poland last year it was officially a bigger spectator sport than football.
There are obvious synergies between Speedway and Rallycross and the adoption of a race format based closely on that used in Speedway for the new FIA Rallycross Championship is clearly aimed at making the events easier to understand for spectators and TV viewers, as well as offering more racing for drivers and fans.
The FIA Rallycross Championship events will continue to be run over two days and will feature all three current classes, there will be racing for the Super1600, TouringCar and Supercar drivers on both days of the events, TouringCar and Super1600 will also feature in TV coverage of the events. The Supercar class will be the feature of the Championship events. This is where the ’round robin’ series of qualifying heats will be introduced for an entry of up to 25 Supercars which will comprise a mix of permanent drivers, wildcard entries and national qualifiers. The format means that every driver will race against every other driver in the heats (with five cars on the grid), the best 12 progressing to semi-finals and the top six to the final. As points scored in every race will count in the championship, drivers will no longer be able to sit-out a heat and race fans will get to see more racing and their favourites on the track more often. Super1600 and TouringCar will have a similar system but the entry will remain more open with no requirement for drivers to commit to race in every championship event.
As well as offering more to drivers, IMG is contracting events into championship on long-term deals, providing circuits and clubs with the security to plan ahead and invest in their venues with the knowledge that they have a major event for a fixed period.
Change is often difficult to accept or understand but is inevitable and necessary, specially in a market place that is as crowded and competitive as motor sport. Rallycross has changed in the past and it will, probably, change again in the future. The real element of change that IMG will bring is the new racing format, but if you look back into the history of Rallycross you will be able to find examples of many different styles of racing being used – even knock-out finals in European events – what we have is still Rallycross; short races on asphalt and gravel.