The 2018 FIA World Rally Championship hit top gear with a spectacular high-profile launch at the Autosport International show in Birmingham on Thursday.
Manufacturer teams representing Citroën, Hyundai, M-Sport Ford and Toyota provided a first public look at their 2018 World Rally Cars as the quartet lined up side-by-side on the central stage during a day dubbed Takeover Thursday.
All the big-name drivers, co-drivers and team principals were present to share their views on the new season, two weeks before the prestigious Rallye Monte-Carlo (25 – 28 January) ushers in the opening action in Monaco’s glamorous Casino Square.
A packed day of WRC activities heralded the opening of Europe’s biggest pre-season motorsport show at the NEC Birmingham. All cars will stay on display throughout the weekend with more driver appearances lined up.
Support category competitors from WRC 2 and Junior WRC also took part.
Major news stories from launch day activities included:
• WRC Promoter, the championship’s commercial rights holder, announced ground-breaking plans to show live coverage of every special stage from every rally as it happens. The new WRC All Live service will offer more than 25 hours of coverage from each round 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.
• Ford announced extended support to M-Sport, winner of both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles in 2017. The renamed M-Sport Ford World Rally Team will receive additional technical help from Ford Performance in USA, as well as extra financial backing.
• Mads Østberg will join Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team for Rally Sweden (15 – 18 February). The Norwegian and co-driver Torstein Eriksen will drive a third C3 alongside Kris Meeke and Craig Breen. “We’re talking about further rallies but nothing has been confirmed,” said Østberg.
• World champions Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia were joined by M-Sport Ford boss Malcolm Wilson in opening the four-day show.
• Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja made their first official appearance in Toyota Gazoo Racing colours after joining the Finnish-based team from M-Sport for 2018.
• Dani Sordo appeared with new co-driver Carlos del Barrio. Del Barrio, who previously partnered his fellow Spaniard between 2011 – 2013, replaces Marc Marti alongside Sordo at Hyundai Motorsport.