While the ERC’s position as the launchpad to the FIA World Rally Championship is clearly defined in the FIA Sporting Pyramid, Wheatley explained that it’s not just drivers and co-drivers that are benefiting from the pathway, but teams and many other people working in rallying as well.
“The ERC is absolutely crucial,” Wheatley said. “What we’ve seen over the last couple of years is a real regeneration of the ERC with huge numbers of competitors coming to the championship and really close competition. The ERC is really well placed to create that stepping stone from national ASN-based championships to the WRC. It’s always been a strong stepping stone but it’s growing and growing in front of our eyes.
“As well as being a training ground for future talent it’s where the next generation of WRC event organisers will come from. It’s where the next generation of media advisors will come from, it’s where the next generation of technical delegates will come from. It’s an opportunity for everybody to be able to understand and work in the concept and the processes that go into organising these huge international events. There is new blood coming into the organising teams and this makes a huge difference going forward.”
Wheatley also used his trip to São Miguel island, the setting for a hugely memorable Azores Rallye decided in dramatic fashion on the Power Stage, to praise the extensive live coverage the championship is now benefitting from.
With the ERC now promoted by the same team behind the WRC, every stage from each round will be streamed live and on demand for fans to watch whenever, wherever and however they want through WRC Promoter’s WRC+ streaming platform at http://wrcplus.com/.
“WRC+ puts people right into the driving seat of what’s happening in the championship,” Wheatley said. “And if anybody has any question as to what rallying is, if they sit in front of WRC+ for five or six hours, by the end of that period, they have absolutely no doubt. The teams are learning as much from watching the TV as they are from talking to the real people and it genuinely is the revolution that rallying was waiting for.
“One of the leading co-drivers told me about eight years ago that the best stories stay in the forest. And I think with WRC+, it's very difficult to keep anything in the forest nowadays, it's almost impossible to be able to hide something. And that’s to the benefit of the fans.”
The 2022 ERC season resumes at Rally Islas Canarias from 12-14 May.