The 2017 WRC’s 13-round calendar was confirmed by the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Vienna last night.
It will feature greater manufacturer interest with the return of automotive giants Toyota and Citroën, faster and more dramatic-looking cars built to new rules and a fascinating driver line-up with at least five of this season’s top competitors yet to reveal their new teams.
Rally Australia Chairman Ben Rainsford said the Coffs Coast event would return with all the elements that made this year’s round on 17-20 November an outstanding success.
“Moving to the last round on the calendar for the first time since 2005 worked well. The WRC visitors from Europe loved the warmer weather in November and especially enjoyed the inaugural end-of-season Gala we hosted in Sydney,” he said.
“The star of our attractions this year was the Destination NSW Super Special Stage on the Coffs Harbour Jetty foreshore, with the backdrop of the harbor and the Pacific Ocean,” he said.
“It was a hit with spectators, competitors and media and will be back and even better in 2017. And as we do every year, we’re already working on new innovations to make Rally Australia one of the most exciting WRC events of the year for spectators and competitors.”
The 2017 season starts in just seven weeks’ time with the historic Rallye Monte-Carlo and will feature a mix of gravel, tarmac, snow and ice action along its journey to Kennards Hire Rally Australia.
Major changes are an earlier April date for France’s tarmac Tour de Corse, breaking up a series of seven consecutive loose-surface fixtures, and a less crowded final quarter.
Each round will welcome the new generation of World Rally Cars boasting more power, less weight, more extreme aerodynamic bodywork and more noise to rev up the excitement for fans.
WRC Promoter Managing Director Oliver Ciesla said 2017 promised “excitement in abundance”.
“The 2016 season brought great unpredictability, with six different winners during the year,” he said.
“Returning former world champion manufacturers will make 2017 bigger and better,and the sense of anticipation generated by the new cars means there is plenty for fans to look forward to.”
Mr Ciesla said the season’s final months would be less hectic than the over-crowded period in the 2016 calendar leading to Rally Australia.
“Despite strong efforts from all sides it wasn’t possible to include Turkey and China in the calendar next year, but all parties are eager to help that come to fruition in the future.
“As a result there are no rounds in September. Rather than restructure the calendar to close that gap, we decided to keep the entire month free to observe potential candidate events,” he added.
2017 FIA WRC calendar:
1. Monte-Carlo, 19-22 January
2. Sweden, 9-12 February
3. Mexico, 9-12 March
4. France, 6-9 April
5. Argentina, 27-30 April
6. Portugal, 18-21 May
7. Italy, 8-11 June
8. Poland, 29 June-2 July
9. Finland, 27-30 July
10. Germany, 17-20 August
11. Spain, 5-8 October
12. Great Britain, 26-29 October
13. Kennards Hire Australia, 16-19 November