Unsurprisingly, given their somewhat conservative nature, the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship (ITRC) have decided not to expand beyond its present six rounds in 2013 despite a request from the West Cork Rally for inclusion into the senior series in Ireland.
And Don Wilmont, the championship co-ordinator, has also stepped down after 13 years at the helm of the senior rally series in Ireland
There are a number of Rally Championships in Ireland including the ITRC, the Dunlop National and Forestry series as well as a number of stand-alone events, which include the likes of the West Cork, the Dick Bailey Stages in Wexford and the ALMC which has its headquarters in North Dublin.
All three events have at various stages shown an interest in becoming part of the ITRC with the West Cork two-day event having sounded out the organisers for inclusion in future championships.
However, at a recent meeting of the ITRC one of the decisions made was that the series would continue into 2013 with just six rounds.
The organisers of the ITRC argued that they have cut the Jim Clark in Scotland and the Isle of Man Rally out of the series in recent years to give a fully home-based championship.
However, their omission is something of a mute point as no Irish Rally regulars were making the trip to those events anyway, using them as dropped score rounds and concentrating fully on events here in Ireland.
In addition, at the recent ITRC meeting it was decided that it was no longer a requirement that Galway, The Circuit, Killarney Lakes, Donegal, Ulster and Cork ‘20’, would have to run with International rally permits and the events can now run on a National basis only in order to cut costs.
The ITRC it seems have taken a leaf out of the British Rally Championship (BRC) who have woken up to its limitations and indeed this year’s BRC series is for front wheel drive cars only.
Next year the BRC organisers will no longer run the championship under an international badge and will instead run under one National permit which will provide significant savings for each of their rallies.
"Teams will also benefit from more compact rallies and the consequent reduced entry fees." - John Kenny
Those changes will mean competitors can take part without having to hold an international competition licence and thereby reduce costs and ease criteria for entry.
Teams will also benefit from more compact rallies and the consequent reduced entry fees.
It is hoped that making the BRC a National rather than an international series will also increase opportunities for more manufacturer involvement, which will focus on the UK market and the BRC has embarked on a strategy of encouraging manufacturer dialogue and involvement.
The FIA the world governing body has to pass cars to run in International series, the term known as ‘homologation’.
The ITRC still runs homologated cars within its series and the likes of Donegal and Galway were still classed as ‘International’ rally events this year
Next year the BRC will free itself of that requirement and it is hoped will persuade more UK manufacturers to get involved without having to run under FIA rules surrounding homologation.
The 2013 BRC will permit new vehicles to compete alongside current homologated two-wheel-drive cars but that will be phased out in the coming years.
No one is certain that the changes will work and indeed to entry levels for the 2012 two wheeled drive BRC have been a little disappointing.
The likes of Citroen and Renault, however, have used the BRC to run their DS3 and Twango’s respectively with Ireland’s Keith Cronin (pictured below), who runs for Citroen, recently winning his third British Championship.
While rally fans and drivers in Ireland would certainly miss World Rally Cars running in the ITRC, it’s time to make a change to a more driver friendly series.
The changes introduced by the BRC have brought in a raft of new and younger drivers as well while the likes of Craig Breen, Robert Barrable and Alastair Fisher have largely ignored the ITRC and have made the move to IRC and the World Rally scene.
While Irish events are well run, by and large the real excitement this year in the series came during the Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland rally when co-ordinator Bobby Willis persuaded the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC), the second tier of world rallying, to include the iconic event in its calendar.
Willis took over the running of the Circuit three years ago and pumped his own money into the event, working tirelessly to elevate the historic event to something approaching its former glories.
This he did with aplomb.
Donnelly Group came on board as sponsors and Ireland was showcased to Europe with coverage of the Circuit via Eurosport and the RPM motorsport programme.
In fact it is estimated the value of advertising coverage was worth €1.75 million such was the support of the event from TV, radio, written press and online.
Irish drivers were also well to the fore with Breen and Barrable finishing inside the top ten, and Fisher running as high as fourth overall before being forced to retire.
The Circuit was also a counting round of the ITRC, but because the ageing World Rally Cars are still allowed to compete in the series, it ran behind the IRC entrants and became something of an afterthought.