Uk fans get a chance to meet world ral­ly­ing’ she roes

Motor Sport News - - Front Page - By David Evans

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.”

Sign of the times: Fans can get au­to­graphs

Champ on hand: Ogier will be at ASI

Pho­tos: mck­lein-im­age­database.com, LAT

Au­tosport-branded Ogier on Rally GB

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