The nail-biting end to Kennards Hire Rally Australia secured the third biggest global television audience of last year’s FIA World Rally Championship.
With three drivers battling it out for the title, all eyes in the rally world were firmly focused on Coffs Coast – which was also the final round of the CAMS Australian Rally Championship.
The world watched in more than 150 television markets as Frenchman Sébastien Ogier eventually won a battle with Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak to take his sixth-straight drivers’ championship.
A record total of 88.5 million viewers followed the four-day Australian spectacle, according to a report by independent analyst Nielsen Sports. Locally, the event was seen on Fox Sports Australia and 7mate.
The digital focus on Kennards Hire Rally Australia also remains strong, with the digital channels of the Coffs Coast based rally among the most followed in the world with a total of 381,000 followers.
Looking back at the WRC season as a whole, the total global annual audience for the 13-round series was almost 824 million. Rallye Monte-Carlo was the most popular event with almost 101 million viewers, while Rally Spain attracted 93.7 million.
Australia’s achievement was highlighted when Oliver Ciesla, Managing Director of championship organising company WRC Promoter, spoke about the WRC’s continued growth during the opening of the Geneva International Motor Show this week.
Mr Ciesla revealed the thrilling fight between Ogier, Neuville and Tänak – three of five different event winners last year – helped lift global broadcast time to a record 14,208 hours.
It was the first time the figure had topped 14,000 hours, climbing from almost 13,500 hours in 2017. The increase maintained the WRC’s consistent growth, which has seen broadcast time rise by more than 140 percent from 5900 hours in 2013.
Mr Ciesla highlighted several factors responsible for the growth.
“In recent seasons WRC fans have enjoyed unpredictability and excitement which has generated fantastic battles for rally wins and titles and these positive audience figures reflect that,” he said.
“Changes to the competition format, including revisions to the start order and an attractive Power Stage format, with extra bonus points available, have helped raise fan interest to new levels.
“Competition with the new-generation World Rally Cars has been closer than ever. Five different drivers won rallies last season and each of our four manufacturer teams won at least once.”