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GP Week : Issue 44
The case for the IRC I rIsh codriver Paul Nagle has seen both the WrC and the IrC events from the inside of a rally car and, while he enjoys them both immensely, they are two quite different forms of rallying. “The type of events themselves is different. The WRC rallies have strict and predictable three-day formats, with virtually all the stages in daylight. “The IRC is more flexible in the timings and layout of events. So far as competitors are concerned, we have more chance to check out the stages in advance, three passes on each stage in the IRC as opposed to two. “So far as tyres are concerned, the WRC has entered this single-tyre contract with Pirelli, whereas IRC provides for freedom of supply of tyres. And there is much more freedom on how we run the tyres. In IRC we can cut the tread patterns if the conditions demand this.” One of the most important differences concern the cars. Like the WRC, the IRC demands that cars are fully homologated by the FIA, but cars complying under the A8 rules (which means World Rally Cars) cannot compete here. This rule is parallel to the FIA’s regional championships. This means that the premier class of cars are the N4 cars, which means Group N Mitsubishis and Subarus – and the Super 2000 cars. Paul has co-driven in both World Rally Cars and Super 2000 and notices the difference clearly: “These S2000 cars are not so fast but the way you drive them is different. You have to carry your speed much more, because the engines do not have the low speed torque of the turbocharged cars in the WRC. You have to drive on the limit to get good times in S2000 – you must never let your speed drop off. It is certainly more difficult to get the best out of an S2000, but any previous experience in Super 1600, like Kris Meeke has, is a great help”. Turbocharged Group N cars in IRC are eligible in IRC event but they have not progressed performance-wise as quickly as the Super 2000s, which 38 means it is hard for Group N cars to be competitive in IRC nowadays. The main championship rules difference is that teams do not have to commit themselves to the full championship, or even to specific events, in order to qualify for manufacturers points. There is still is a form of compulsory registration so that neither drivers nor manufacturers can score championship points unless the make of car used is approved by the IRC promoters. The list of IRC-registered makes is increasing all the time but with one major exception – it does not include Subaru. Some events in the IRC, such as Monte Carlo and Portugal, have swopped between each series but the Azores event is new to all the regular IRC drivers. Some events, such as Azores, will be new to all. The IRC also has a category for two-wheel-drive cars. The background of IRC drivers is broad. Some, such as Freddy Loix, come from a successful career in the WRC; some such as Kris Meeke have been squeezed out of the WRC for financial reasons, or simply the lack of available drives; some come from success in other championships, such as former European champion Giandomenico Basso; while others come from outside the sport altogether, like former VTT (mountain bike) champion Nicolas Vouilloz. The competition is fascinating. “Any one of the top ten entries can seriously expect to win,” Paul suggests. “At the moment, very few competitors in the WRC have any realistic hope of finishing on the podium, but many do in IRC. It is really enjoyable to do your best and have a chance of success”. Paul is happy to have experience of both sides of the coin. “The WRC is still the pinnacle of the sport, but you cannot get away from the fact that the IRC is a friendly place, and at the moment there are more active manufacturers in the IRC than the WRC …”