IMG gears up for World Rallycross expansion as it launches Silverstone ‘festival’ event
By Florence Lloyd-Hughes at Silverstone
IMG, the international sports and entertainment company that is the promoter of motor racing’s FIA World Rallycross Championship, wants to expand the series and hold events in North America, Asia and the Middle East, according to Paul Bellamy, managing director of the series.
IMG yesterday launched the start of its five-year hosting contract with Silverstone, the UK motor racing circuit, which is to stage the UK leg of the World Rallycross Championship from 2018 onwards.
Speaking on the sidelines of the event at Silverstone, Bellamy discussed IMG’s expansion plans for the series, which presently comprises 12 races.
He said: “We’re currently at 12, I don’t see us going to a lot more but 13 or 14. The expansion will be outside of Europe. North America is certainly on our radar and we’re having conversations now. Asia, Far East and potentially the Middle East. But, expansion will be out of Europe.”
The Killarney race circuit in Cape Town, South Africa makes its debut this year as the first championship race to take place in Africa, while Grand Prix Trois-Rivières in Quebec, Canada is presently the only other race held outside of Europe.
Istanbul in Turkey previously hosted a leg of the championship in its inaugural season in 2014 and in 2015, and Argentina hosted a round during the series’ first three seasons.
Silverstone is to replace Lydden Hill in Kent as the UK leg on the series, while the 2017 schedule also includes European stops in: Spain; Portugal; Germany (twice); Belgium; Norway; Sweden; France; and Latvia.
The World Rallycross Championship was born out of IMG’s exclusive long-term deal signed with motor sport’s FIA in 2012 to become the promoter of the European Rallycross Championship. Following the creation of the global series, the European Rallycross Championship was restructured into a three-title series.
As well as expansion, Bellamy is confident the series can attract more sponsors in a broad number of categories.
Monster Energy, the energy drinks brand, has been the series’ presenting sponsor since the debut season and has an option to extend its deal for a further year, but when pressed on a potential title sponsor for the series, Bellamy was keen to reflect on the success of the Monster deal and the space for new companies to get on board.
He remarked: “Possibly [have a title sponsor]. Monster have an option for another year and they’ve been very good partners from the start. But we want to open the series up to totally different categories.”
He added: “We got the tyre sponsor with Cooper Tires. There’s opportunity for tech companies. Rallycross lends itself to short sharp content. That opens itself up to telcos (telecom companies). There are bigger brands we’re talking to.”
In terms of next year’s event at Silverstone, IMG is hoping to attract a new audience with its SpeedMachine Festival concept for the race weekend, which will take place from 25 to 27 May next year.
Bellamy explained: “We’re going down this route of a festival concept with food, music and e-gaming, with opportunities for car manufacturers to take a stand here.
"We want to attract a different kind of audience. One that wouldn’t necessarily come to motorsports but will come because of the other festival elements.”