Thousands of fans watched the FIA World Rally Championship hit top gear as the stars and cars of the 2019 season appeared together for the first time in Birmingham on Saturday.
Manufacturer teams representing Citroën, Hyundai, M-Sport Ford and Toyota provided a first public look at their 2019 World Rally Cars as the quartet lined up side-by-side at the WRC season launch.
Close season signings, new driver and co-driver partnerships, familiar pairings and team principals unveiled fresh liveries on their cars during the WRC’s very own Super Saturday at Autosport International show.
Each driver also revealed his 2019 competition number, a new feature allowing all drivers to select their individual permanent car number for the year.
Interviews enabled the WRC stars to share with eager fans their excitement about the new season, 12 days before the prestigious Rallye Monte-Carlo (24 - 27 January) ushers in the opening action, and they spent time signing autographs, posing for selfies and meeting showgoers.
Highlights included the first public appearance in Citroën Total World Rally Team colours of Ogier and fellow new signing Esapekka Lappi.
Kris Meeke appeared with new co-driver Seb Marshall and Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Yaris World Rally Car, while Hyundai Shell Mobis and M-Sport Ford World Rally Teams unveiled new liveries on their 2019 challengers.
A packed day of WRC activities also included appearances by support category drivers from WRC 2 and Junior WRC.
WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla said the launch provided a marvellous opportunity to showcase the 2019 WRC.
“WRC’s Super Saturday was a resounding success and we welcomed huge crowds to the WRC area to introduce the 2019 cars and raise anticipation ahead of the opening round,” he said.
“Seeing the excitement on the faces of fans as they met their heroes highlighted what this type of public event means to people and emphasised the continued growing profile of WRC.”
Other major news from launch day included:
WRC+ All Live launches Spanish version
The WRC’s ground-breaking All Live television programme will expand in 2019 to include a Spanish language version.
Following its introduction 12 months ago, All Live transformed the way the WRC is broadcast. Fans enjoyed unprecedented live coverage of every special stage from every round in an English language stream, available on www.wrcplus.com.
All Live will now introduce an expert team to provide Spanish commentary of the dramatic action from all 14 rounds.
“The WRC visits four Spanish language countries this year, in Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Spain, and our fan base of Spanish speakers accounts for a significant proportion of All Live followers,” said Ciesla.
“After a fantastic inaugural season, we’ve responded to the requests of our Spanish fans in Europe and Latin America by adding a second language to All Live so they can enjoy the thrills and spills of the WRC in their native tongue,” he added.
Wolf sponsors Power Stage at all 14 rounds
Independent lubricant specialist Wolf will become the title partner for the rally-closing Power Stage at all 14 rounds of the 2019 championship.
The Belgian company, which in September signed a long-term agreement to become the WRC’s official lubricant partner, will enjoy prominent TV exposure around Sunday lunchtime’s exciting bonus points-paying finale to each rally.
The Antwerp-based producer was founded in 1955 and has become a leading name in the industry, specialising in tailored, technology-enhanced lubricants.
Chile joins WRC calendar
Chile becomes the 32nd country to host the WRC since the championship was launched in 1973.
COPEC Rally Chile (9 - 12 May) is based in Concepción and is the sixth round of an expanded 14-round championship. It forms the second half of a spectacular double-header with Argentina, adding to south America’s burgeoning portfolio of world-class motorsport.
Autodoc becomes WRC partner
Online car parts sales company Autodoc has become the latest premium partner of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Berlin-based Autodoc, Europe’s market leader in the sale of car parts online, will benefit from prominent TV visibility and service park branding at all European rounds.
It will also enjoy comprehensive online activation on the official wrc.com website and the WRC’s growing social media platforms, as well as breathtaking bespoke videos for use on Autodoc’s own channels.
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