What to take away from the WRC launch at the Autosport International

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The World Rally Championship launched their 2018 season today in Birmingham at the Autosport International.  It featured the announcement of the 2018 manufacturer liveries, the new Polo R5 and the WRC+ changes for this season. But what does it all mean?

Stability in the WRC

While we knew much of the driver lineup and team lineup for this year’s WRC, we didn’t know the liveries.  But after the reveals, we got pretty much what we had from last year. While this may be a little dull and will fail to gain any serious headlines, it shows that there is a period of stability in the WRC.

Last year we were dealing with the withdrawal of VW and the incoming new cars. It was all very exciting but this year is the difficult 2nd album. And for that, stability is no bad thing.

 

A little good news

Ford is extending the company’s investment to ensure the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team remains competitive through the 2018 WRC season and beyond, following technical and financial contributions in 2017.

The increased backing from Ford is a key driver in M Sport’s retention of Sébastien Ogier – 2017 FIA WRC Drivers’ champion – for the 2018 season. Ogier and upcoming talent Elfyn Evans will lead the team, alongside their respective co-drivers Julien Ingrassia and Daniel Barritt, in the Ford Fiesta WRC.

 

That announcement came from Ford Performance today and while it is a way off from the manufacturer plans that we are used to, it is a great step forward for the commitment to the team and their commitment to try to win another Championship. Whatever happens, it doesn’t look like Ford will let M-Sport slip back because they can’t fight on the funding front.

Something for Mads

Mads Ostberg will be in a Citroen at Rally Sweden in what looks like an additional car. Will this move to more rallies through the year? We hope so. It seems like Mads has been around forever but he is only 30. Marcus Gronholm was 33 when he won his first Championship! So don’t count Mads out yet.

New VW Polo R5

Some doubted it would ever come but today we see it in the flesh and it looks like it could dominate. Afterall, anything VW enters, they do well. We hope there will be a good fight between it, the Skoda, the Fiesta, the Citroen and the Hyundai. Time will tell.

And finally, WRC +

For the first time in the championship’s history, every special stage from each round will be shown as it happens. Additional live coverage will include the opening and podium ceremonies, press conferences and driver autograph sessions.

WRC Promoter, the championship’s commercial rights holder, will offer more than 25 hours of coverage from each rally as a continuous live stream, including expert analysis from the WRC’s TV studio and breaking news, interviews and reactions from across the service park.

It has been self described as ‘pioneering’ and I would have to agree. This will give the viewer unprecedented access to a motorsport event. Never before has the viewer had the option of gaining this level of access. It makes sense too. The vision is already there – mind for some expert opinion. The interviews already happen. The helicopters and on boards operate even when not on live TV. So why not bring it to the viewer for a small monthly fee (8.99 Euro per month!)?

In an age where companies are looking beyond TV – or to supplement their TV interests, the WRC have been leading the motorsport field. And with this offering they have moved beyond motorsport and entering a new age – even beyond that of ball sports.

It is reckoned that 80% of F1 coverage doens’t hit the TV screens. Rallying is doing something about that wastage!

But fear not friends, the Rally Radio crew are integrated into the platform.

The RacerViews info

By Sam Tickell  January 2018

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