WRC TO LAUNCH AT AUTO SPORT INTERNATIONAL SHOW
Uk fans get a chance to meet world rallying’ she roes
British rally fans will be offered unique access to the stars of the World Rally Championship when the 2018 series is launched at Autosport International in January.
The Birmingham show will play host to world champions Sebastien Ogier and M-sport along with all the other drivers, co-drivers and teams competing in next season’s WRC.
Malcolm Wilson, whose M-sport team was recently crowned manufacturers’ champion, said: “Autosport International is always an exciting time of the year, but next January it’ll be even more exciting than ever. What a fantastic opportunity for the sport, the series, the show and, of course, the fans.”
Next year’s World Rally Championship will be launched at January’s Autosport International in Birmingham.
As well as the formal launch of WRC 2018, the teams will use the show to parade their new-season liveries ahead of round one, the Monte Carlo Rally, which will start a fortnight after the launch on Thursday January 11.
Next year’s Autosport International (ASI) – which is part of Motorsport Network’s UK title Autosport – will be a landmark event, with a top-tier FIA world championship opening there for the first time in the 27-year history of the Nec-based show.
Show director Kate Woodley said: “We really are writing history for Autosport International and the World Rally Championship in January. What a privilege to have arguably motorsport’s most exciting series in the world launched under our roof.
“For the first time ever, all of the best rally drivers, co-drivers and cars in the world will be in one place and that place is Autosport International. This is a brilliant opportunity for all of us here at ASI, the World Rally Championship and fans of rallying around the world. For a big part of the WRC’S history, Britain had the final say in the championship with, first the RAC, and then Rally GB, but this is the first time we’ve ever had the opportunity to open proceedings. We understand the significance of what’s coming and we fully intend to do it justice.”
Beyond Thursday’s day-long event, which will be attended by all manufacturer drivers, co-drivers and team principals, factory drivers will take part in the remaining three days of the show. The drivers will also play a role in the Live Action element of ASI, but precise details of that participation are still under discussion.
Recent Wales Rally GB winner Elfyn Evans supported the launch at Autosport, outlining the benefits to fans as well as those inside the industry.
Evans said: “The Autosport show is something that, certainly the likes of Kris [Meeke], Craig [Breen] and all of our co-drivers, have grown up with and it’s a good show in its own right. There’s a bit of everything from across all aspects of motorsport and for the World Rally Championship to be right at the heart of that is very good news.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be good to do something a bit different and it’s a great chance for the fans to come over and have a look – it’s good for Britain to have
a second major event in the WRC season.”
Evans’ team M-sport has a long-standing relationship with Autosport International, running the show livery on its cars for Wales Rally GB for the last three years. Team principal Malcolm Wilson is delighted to see the series being given a high-profile boost ahead of the opening round. In addition to the show elements on offer in Birmingham, WRC launch day will be televised live on Motorsport.tv.
Wilson said: “I’ve been going to Autosport International since it began and it really is seen, industry-wide, as the start of the season, so to have an event with this sort of global reach is fantastic for the World Rally Championship. Coming at it from the other side, I’ve always championed more rally content at Autosport International and next year we’re going to have more than ever!
“We’ve seen, first-hand, the sort of interest running the Autosport International livery on our cars at Wales Rally GB generates.
“Autosport [International] provides a great infrastructure for the WRC and the world championship will provide some fantastic content for the show. Autosport’s always an exciting time of the year, but in January it’ll be more exciting than ever.
“For the championship, this is a great step forward in terms of promotion.”
The Wales Rally GB stand will also form a significant part of next year’s WRC effort at the show, with cars and drivers from both the world and British Rally Championships on display and interviewed.
The WRC arrives at ASI on the back of better-than-ever spectator numbers, with more than four million people watching the cars on the stages for the first time. WRC Promoter’s Oliver Ciesla sees next year’s Autosport International as an opportunity to take those figures further.
“WRC spectator numbers have shown a steady positive development since 2013,” said Ciesla. “We expect the final 2017 figures to reveal an increase of nearly 30 per cent against those from just five seasons ago. Fans have loved the appeal of more powerful and spectacular World Rally Cars that have produced such great action, as well as the most exciting and unpredictable drivers’ title fight in a decade.
“And what better occasion to kick-off next year’s FIA World Rally Championship than at the fantastic Autosport International, which is rightly regarded as the start of the new motorsport season?
“It provides a wonderful opportunity to showcase the 2018 WRC, featuring the impressive World Rally Cars which have proved such a massive attraction to fans this year, and all the leading drivers from our manufacturer teams. Thursday at the show will truly be a WRC takeover, but fans attending later in the weekend will still have the opportunity to whet their appetite for the season ahead as the cars will remain on display and there will be plenty of driver appearances.”
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