Road Racing News

IRRC The First Ten Years – Recent Championships

The final part of Road Racing News, new series on the first ten years of the IRRC (International Road Racing Championship), focuses upon the recent championships which have elevated the series status level ten fold within the closed roads fraternity.

A racer with Moto GP experience would rise to the top of the IRRC Superbike standings in 2015, Herpigny Motors/BMW Motorrad Belux backed Sebastien Le Grelle.

No stranger to roads competition in Belgium, Le Grelle’s series success was still a surprise to many, but perhaps not to astute roads aficionados who had no doubt about his championship winning potential.

Photo by Robby Repsol

Onto 2016 and a third series champion from Belgium would be crowned, as Vincent Lonbois held off the challenge of reigning champion, fellow countryman Le Grelle.

Maintaining the Herpigny Motors/BMW Motorrad Belux team’s Superbike class supremacy, the amiable Lonbois proved unbeatable on more than one occasion in 2016, including at the famous ex Finnish Grand Prix venue of Imatranajo.

Photo by Robby Repsol

The introduction of Imatranajo to the IRRC calendar, no question in my opinion was one of the IRRC organisers best decisions of recent times.

Road racing alongside the family atmosphere, camaraderie in the paddocks, exhilarating race action, showcasing motorsport in it’s purest form, is also about history and prestige, and Imatranajo epitomises this.

Alongside the IRRC front runners, event wildcards gracing Imatranajo in 2016 included former British Supersport championship star Pauli Pekkanen and Sweden’s fastest TT competitor Bjorn Gunnarsson.

With action at Imatranajo proving extremely popular, allied to the series becoming more and more recognised in mainland Europe, it was nothing but positive vibes for racers, teams heading into IRRC 2017.

With reigning champion Vincent Lonbois just taking part in one series round at Circuit De Chimay, this paved the way for Sebastien Le Grelle, multi Supersport champion Marek Cerveny and Didier Grams to battle it out for big bike championship honours.

Ultimately the final round of the season at Frohburger Dreieck in Germany, saw Herpigny Motors/BMW Motorrad Belux team mainstay Le Grelle claim a second series crown, as Superbike newcomer Cerveny ended the season an excellent second in the final championship standings.

Performance Racing Achterhoek’s Joey Den Besten reclaimed the IRRC Supersport crown, whilst added highlights for IRRC fans from 2017 included imperious performances a plenty from high profile event wildcards such as Michael Rutter, the late but great Dan Kneen, Derek Sheils, Alex Polita and new Frohburger Dreieck lap record holder Danny Webb.

Photo by Robby Repsol

Tunbridge Wells Webb, winner of last years IRRC Superbike championship, achievements from 2018 should not be underestimated.

The UK’s first IRRC series champion, he claimed at least a second place finish or better at each round, wrapped up in total five victories including dominating the premier class encounters at Terlicko and Imatranajo.

Respectively finishing second, third in last years championship were Markka Racing’s improving Erno Kostamo and series legend Didier Grams, who remains widely considered as Germany’s leading closed roads exponent.

Reflecting on last years Supersport series, the title spoils were claimed by a notable series newcomer, former World Endurance champion Matthieu Lagrive.

The affable Frenchman who became his nations first IRRC champion, was imperious throughout 2018 aboard the Wepol Racing Yamaha, banking in total seven victories and in total 11 podium finishes.

Truly world class racers like Lagrive, team mate, reigning Superbike champion Webb showcase just how far the IRRC (International Road Racing Championship) has come on since it’s introduction in 2010.

Now recognised as a high level, important series for manufacturers, could we soon see a UK based IRRC round?

It’s a distinct future possibility for a series which in my opinion will play a formal role in maintaining a strong, diverse, large worldwide fan base for road racing in the 2020’s.

Words by Stevie Rial

>