WRC ready for launch at Autosport International

Group Rallying Editor
@davidevansrally

The World Rally Championship will descend on Birmingham tomorrow for the first ever UK-based launch of the series at Autosport International.

Reigning world champion Sebastien Ogier will open the show and kick-start a day-long presentation of the drivers, co-drivers and their cars, complete with all-new 2018 liveries.

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team principal Malcolm Wilson is delighted to see the series being launched two weeks ahead of the opening event in Monte Carlo.

“Starting 2018 at Autosport [International] is fantastic news for the whole championship,” said Wilson. “The show is widely regarded as the start of the motorsport season and to see the WRC right at the very heart of that is great news for us. The show provides a great infrastructure for the launch and having the day broadcast live on television is another shot in the arm.”

Fans unable to attend the launch can watch live coverage via Motorsport News’ sister titles Motorsport TV or on autosport.com.

For more information on the Autosport International Show, or to get your tickets, click here

Ogier will open the show and meet fans before season launch. Pic: LAT

What’s coming from the WRC at ASI?

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team
Ford Fiesta WRC

Sebastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans both attend the launch on Thursday with Dayinsure Wales Rally GB winner Evans also present on Friday.

The Welshman will fly out of Birmingham on Friday evening bound for the south of France where he starts M-Sport’s pre-event Monte Carlo test. Evans runs the Fiesta WRC for two days, with Ogier driving for the following two days. Bryan Bouffier will get a single day’s running on January 17 (see separate story). As well answering questions about last season’s title double, M-Sport Ford will announce another driver expected to be in the team for the main part of the year.

Evans is back with M-Sport’s first team, and will talk live. Pic: LAT

Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

All four drivers will be present at Autosport International, but only Thierry Neuville, Andreas Mikkelsen and Dani Sordo will be able to talk about their Monte Carlo preparations – which they will have completed with one day running each earlier this week.

Hayden Paddon sits the season-opener out, but the popular Kiwi will have plenty to talk about regarding his first 2018 outing in Sweden next month. Team principal Michel Nandan will be on hand to discuss his how he’s going to fit four drivers into three cars in what is the Korean firm’s best chance yet of lifting the World Rally Championship titles.

Neuville and Hyundai will take the wraps off their new challenger. Pic: LAT

Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team
Toyota Yaris WRC

This week will provide a first public viewing of Ott Tanak and co-driver Martin Jarveoja as Toyota drivers. The Estonians join the Finnish-based squad and line up alongside Jari-Matti Latvala and Esapekka Lappi in Birmingham.

Tanak drove Toyota’s Yaris WRC for the first time late last month, but Autosport International is the first time he’s been allowed to talk about his new car and the reasons for his move from M-Sport. Like his team-mates, Tanak will have completed his testing ahead of the season-opener, he arrives in Birmginham direct from the Alps. Latvala tested Fruday and Saturday; Lappi Sunday and Monday. Tommi Makinen will also be present at the show.

Big season for Toyota begins at ASI Show. Pic: LAT

Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Citroen C3 WRC

Sebastien Loeb is back with Citroen for the first time in three years this season, but the Frenchman is excused from the World Rally Championship launch – he’ll be busy on the fifth stage of this year’s Dakar. Kris Meeke and Craig Breen will both be on hand to talk about the developments and improvements to the C3 from last season.

The Briton and his Irish team-mate will be a big hit with home rally fans in Birmingham. Both are present at the show on Thursday and Friday. Team principal Yves Matton will outline Citroen’s plan for the year ahead. The Citroen drivers have a few days off prior to their Monte test, which starts towards the end of next week.

Meeke will be live on stage to talk all things Citroen. Pic: LAT

Supports

Volkswagen’s all-new Polo GTI R5 makes it first public appearance in Birmingham along with fellow R5 newbie Proton’s new Iriz R5, you can find both on the Wales Rally GB stand. Skoda’s WRC2 title winning Fabia R5 will be present along with Pontus Tidemand – the driver who won the championship for the Czech manufacturer. Charismatic Norwegian star Mads Ostberg is also expected to reveal his plans for the year ahead at the launch.

VW’s new Polo R5 will be launched to the British public

Timetable

WRC launch day Autosport International
Thursday January 11

0900   Show opened by Sebastien Ogier
1030   Unveil of 2018 cars – centre stage
1045   Welcome to WRC 2018 – centre stage interview
1130   Toyota Gazoo Racing launch – centre stage
1200   Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
1230   Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team
1245   M-Sport Ford World Rally Team
1400   WRC drivers participate in live action
1445   Mads Ostberg – centre stage
1500   WRC2 presentation – centre stage

*Please note the above timetable is provisional.

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