ITV has picked up the UK rights to screen highlights of the 2013 World Rally Championship, starting with the Rally of Mexico.
One-hour peak-time highlights from each of the remaining eleven rounds of this season’s championship will be shown on ITV4 and ITV4 HD, broadcast on the Tuesday following each event with a repeat showing on Saturday mornings.
The WRC was left without a UK broadcast partner for the opening two rounds in Monte Carlo and Sweden, but the new ITV deal ensures the championship’s return to British television as well as guaranteed free-to-air coverage for the rest of the season.
Each one-hour show will feature a comprehensive round-up of each leg of every round, plus driver interviews and reports from all the key stages, all of which will be available to view in high-definition on ITV4 HD, presented by Kevin Piper.
Former Channel 4, ITV and ESPN WRC presenter Jon Desborough will provide stage commentary for Rally Mexico, with Paul King taking over from Portugal onwards.
There is also expected to be extended coverage of the final round of the championship, Wales Rally GB, on November 15-17.
An ITV spokeswoman confirmed to SOTB: “I can confirm that ITV4 have secured the highlights rights for the World Rally Championship for the remainder of 2013 and will be broadcasting one-hour of highlights early on Tuesday evenings (1750 on 12 March for the Mexico highlights) with a repeat on Saturday mornings (1000 on 16 March).”
The World Rally Championship was previously broadcast on ITV between 2004 and 2007. Since then the WRC has been shown on digital channel Dave from 2008 to 2010, with subscription broadcaster ESPN picking up the rights in 2011.
A change in promoter at the beginning of 2012 resulted in the championship being marginalised to specialist motorsports channel Motors TV, with viewing figures barely attracting 20,000 for Rally GB.Motorsport on ITV in 2013
The plight of the World Rally Championship Story of WRC TV rights by The F1 Broadcasting Blog: CLICK HERE
With no UK-wide broadcast deal in place at the beginning of the 2013 season, fans were left to watch selected clips from the opening two rounds via the official WRC YouTube channel and other online sources.
The demise of the championship’s appeal in Britain over the past decade has been well documented, with many citing the loss of major manfacturers, the lack of British drivers in top teams and the lack of significant competition to Sebastien Loeb and Citroen’s dominance, having won the last nine WRC drivers’ titles.
Last year saw a drop of more than half in the total hours of WRC coverage broadcast worldwide and a fall of over a third in the number of markets taking up coverage.
This is in contrast to the championship’s halcyon days of the 1980s and 1990s when interest in rallying in spectator and broadcasting terms was at its peak.
Following the appointment of Red Bull as the new promoters by the FIA at the end of 2012, along with arrival of Volkswagon to the championship and Loeb’s semi-retirement – thereby ruling him out of the title hunt, it is hoped that the 2013 season will being the reinvigoration of the championship as viewing spectacle.
Despite his semi-retirement from the championship, French rally legend Loeb is still the man to beat in the events he is participating after winning the opening round of the season in Monte Carlo, his seventh victory in the principality.
But Volkswagon made headlines in the debut season as a works team by claiming an impressive win in the second round of the championship in Sweden, courtesy of Sebastien Ogier.
As the championship reaches the third round of the season, Mexico hosts the first gravel event with a couple of exciting new stages for 2013.
You can follow all the action during the remaining eleven rounds of the 2013 WRC season on ITV4 and ITV4 HD.
In addition, Welsh-language station S4C will continue to screen its own highlights of the WRC season in its flagship Ralio+ programme, which begins in April.
The WRC adds to ITV4’s impressive line-up of top quality motorsport from the UK and beyond, including British Touring Cars, British Superbikes, DTM, Isle of Man TT, Goodwood Festival of Speed and the inaugural season of BRDC Formula 4.
Round 5, Rally ArgentinaTuesday 7th May WRC: Rally Argentina Highlights 8.00pm-9.00pm – ITV4 Repeat: Saturday 11th May – 9.30am – ITV4
Highlights on ITV4 – Tuesdays following each event January 15-20 Rallye Monte Carlo – Round 1 Winner: Sebastien Loeb (FRA) – Citroen February 7-10 Rally Sweden – Round 2 Winner: Sebastien Ogier (FRA) – Volkswagon March 7-10 Rally Mexico – Round 3 Winner: Sebastien Ogier (FRA) – Volkswagon April 11-14 Rally de Portugal – Round 4 May 1-4 Rally Argentina – Round 5 May 31-June 2 Acropolis Rally, Greece – Round 6 June 20-23 Rally d’Italia Sardegna – Round 7 August 1-3 Rally Finland – Round 8 August 22-25 Rally Deutschland – Round 9 September 12-15 Rally Australia – Round 10 October 3-6 Rallye de France-Alsace – Round 11 October 24-27 Rally de Espana – Round 12 November 13-17 Wales Rally GB – Round 13