The 2018 World Rally Championship is to launch at Autosport International ahead of the season-opener in Monte Carlo a fortnight later. It is the first time a top-tier FIA World Championship has launched at the show in its 27-year history.
All the leading drivers, co-drivers and team principals will be in one place and on hand to talk about the 2017 championship, sharing their opinions on what the new season will bring across all four days of Europe’s biggest pre-season motorsport show at the NEC Birmingham from 11-14 January 2018.
Each manufacturer team contesting the 13-round 2018 season, M-Sport, Hyundai, Toyota and Citroën will parade their 2018 rally cars on the Autosport main stage across the Thursday of Autosport International in what will truly be a WRC takeover day. All of the cars will remain on display at the show throughout the weekend.
Recent Wales Rally GB winner Elfyn Evans supported the launch at Autosport International, outlining the benefits to fans as well as those inside the industry. Evans said: “The Autosport show is something that, certainly the likes of myself, 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.”
M-Sport Team principal Malcolm Wilson added his delighted to see the series being given a high-profile boost ahead of the opening round.
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!
The 2017 WRC season included substantial revisions to the technical regulations aimed at improving the look and the performance of the cars, while allowing a greater degree of technical and design freedom for teams. The series is supported by the WRC 2 and WRC 3 championships with the Junior World Rally Championship at selected rounds. Sébastien Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia successfully defended their WRC title at the last rally event – Dayinsure Wales Rally GB.
A dedicated WRC stand at the show will be the perfect place for rally fans to get up to speed ahead of the 2018 WRC season, which begins in Monaco’s Casino Square two weeks after Autosport International. The Dayinsure Wales Rally GB stand will also form a significant part of the rally celebrations at the show, with cars and drivers from both the world and British Rally Championships present.
Autosport and Motorsport News Rallies Editor David Evans said: “I’ve always seen Autosport International as the perfect place to launch the World Rally Championship, so I’m delighted to see these plans coming to fruition next year. As a journalist in the World Rally Championship, the opportunity to have all the teams, drivers, co-drivers, team principals and even some of the cast of the support series in one place two weeks ahead of the opening round of the 2018 season Monte Carlo, is manna from heaven. But as a member of Autosport and Motorsport News, it’s a with a huge sense of pride that we will all welcome the World Rally Championship to the NEC in January.
“Just three months after enjoying arguably the most thrilling Wales Rally GB ever, Britain will host the start of what’s certain to be another exceptionally competitive year. And, what’s even better is that fans can come along and see their heroes up close throughout the four days of Autosport International.”
Oliver Ciesla, WRC Promoter managing director said: “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.”