A new international rallying competition, the Intercontinental Rally Championship (IRC), has attracted the support of three tire makers: Group Michelin's BFGoodrich tires unit, Pirelli Tyre S.p.A. and Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd., with BFG taking an active role in helping promote the series.
The IRC, organized by SRW Events Ltd. and European sports programming network Eurosport, said its purpose is to give young rally drivers and amateur drivers new opportunities to compete together in recognized regional and international rallies. For car manufacturers, the competition provides the opportunity to participate in an international rally series with cost-effective regulations.
In essence, the IRC offers an alternative to the World Rally Championship (WRC) sanctioned by the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA).
So far the IRC has attracted manufacturer support from European tuners campaigning Honda, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Volkswagen and Fiat cars. The IRC is open to cars in both the Group A (race-prepared) and Group N (showroom stock) categories running engines up to 2 liters in capacity.
The IRC is running a 10-race championship this year and disclosed recently the prestigious Monte Carlo Rally-traditionally the WRC season-opener-will kick off the 2009 IRC season.
Michelin's BFG brand-shut out of the WRC by the FIA's decision last year to restrict that series to a control tire (Pirelli)-is throwing its weight behind the IRC, helping to promote the events through its ``BFGoodrich Drivers Team.'' That effort will put a guest driver from the home country at each event.
BFG has contracted with Belgium's Kronos Racing to campaign a Peugeot 207 Super 2000 for the guest drivers alongside its regular entry. The host country's media select the guest drivers from a list of qualified candidates culled by BFG and Kronos from names put forth by that country's national motorsport governing body.
``(This project) is a unique and exceptional operation, and the drivers who are chosen will be able to compete in ideal conditions,'' said Marc Van Dalen, the team principal and co-founder of Kronos, which won the WRC in 2006 with Frenchman Sebastien Loeb.
``We are convinced that the concept will attract a long list of drivers who are interested in taking part.''
``The IRC shares a number of sporting values with us,'' said Frederic Henry Biabaud, BFG's competitions director.
``The series is open to competition amongst tire manufacturers, and this contains costs as we are able to sell customer competition tires. We are very much in favor of regulations that encourage the use of this type of tire. It is a much better idea than the control tire rules, as it promotes competition.''
BFG also is backing the ``IRC Supporter BFGoodrich Challenge,'' which will provide financial support to the highest placed drivers in IRC regional events to allow them to step up to the international series. Eight such rallys are scheduled for 2008.
Eurosport is providing live coverage of most events.