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BT Sport has signed a deal to show exclusively live coverage of up to 26 stages of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), starting with the opening event of the 2014 season, the famous Rallye Monte Carlo, on January 15th.
The BT Sport WRC programming will run across BT Sport’s three channels, BT Sport 1 and 2, and ESPN. Coverage will include a preview and a review show for each rally and a daily highlights show.
Simon Green, head of BT Sport, said: “We are thrilled to be able to show the World Rally Championship, possibly the most demanding motorsport contest in the world. BT Sport can now offer viewers two of the biggest motorsport properties in the world, WRC and MotoGP. We will bring the viewers closer to the action, the drivers and the teams, with live and behind the scenes coverage.”
Oliver Ciesla, managing director of the WRC Promoter, said: “We are delighted with this exciting new partnership with BT Sport, a broadcast partner that will deliver extensive coverage of the WRC to rally fans in the UK throughout the entire season, with a strong focus on local drivers and on Wales Rally GB and with regular live programmes from all international events in 2014.”
The deal will bring the first regular live rally action on UK screens since ESPN covered the sport’s ‘Power Stages’ during the 2011 season.
In 2013, coverage was provided by the free-to-air ITV4 channel, whose arrangement to show post-event hour-long highlights programme on the Tuesday after each rally is unaffected by the latest BT Sport deal.
Digital satellite and cable channel Motors TV has also announced that it will carry half-hour daily highlights programmes during each of this year’s rallies, commencing with the Monte Carlo event.
The organisers of Wales Rally GB – the closing round of the Championship – welcomed the development.
Andrew Coe,Chief Executive of Wales Rally GB organiser International Motor Sports, said: “The sport is entering another golden era for us in this country. In November, the revitalised Wales Rally GB attracted huge crowds back to the legendary Welsh forests and since then both Elfyn Evans and Kris Meeke have secured full-time drives with two of the very top WRC teams. Now comes news of this great deal with BT Sport which, importantly, is in addition to the widely available coverage on ITV4. Not since the glory days of Colin McRae and Richard Burns has rallying been so blessed – or exciting – in the UK.”