The 2014 FIA World Rally Championship revs into gear on the snow-covered mountains of Monte Carlo this weekend and you can follow the entire season across three UK networks – BT Sport, ITV4 and Motors TV.
Established in 1973, the WRC is widely regarded as the most challenging motorsport championship in the world, pits drivers, teams and cars against some of the toughest and most varied conditions on the planet.
In 2014, the roads on this epic motorsport adventure are spread across 15 countries, with 13 rallies on everything from snow packed forest tracks to rock-strewn mountain passes.
This year’s calendar remains largely unaltered from 2013, with the sole change seeing Poland replace the historic Acropolis Rally in Greece, giving former Formula 1 star Robert Kubica the chance to drive at his home event.
World Rally Cars are no ordinary machines. While they look similar to the ones you might see in your local car showroom, just about everything about them is different.
They are turbocharged, 1.6 litre, four-wheel drive monsters that develop more than 300bhp and masses of torque.
The result is a car that can accelerate from a standing start to 62mph in around three seconds, regardless of the road surface, and can – in the right hands – power slide between the trees on a narrow gravel track under full control at more than 120 mph.
UK fans will be able to follow the fortunes of top British drivers Elfyn Evans and Kris Meeke, as well as international stars Sebastien Ogier – the defending world champion – Mikko Hirvonen, Thierry Neuville and Jari-Matti Latvala.
Ogier was unrivalled in 2013 and secured a commanding world title aboard his Volkswagen Polo.
The Frenchman finished second in the season-opening Monte Carlo event before opening his account for the year with victory in Sweden.
Eight more wins followed, allowing Ogier to seal the title on home turf in France, while Neuville finished as runner-up after recording seven podiums during an impressively consistent season, and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb bowed out of the WRC with two more victories in Monte Carlo and Argentina.
Northern Irishman Meeke will drive for Citroen in 2014, marking the first time that British driver has been part of a main factory team since the days when Richard Burns and Colin McRae brought the sport to the British public’s attention in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
With the WRC aiming to rebuild its profile following a tough period over the past few seasons, the 2014 season will see more manufacturer interest with the return Hyundai for the first time since the 2003.
The Korean marque’s i20 machine will be piloted by Thierry Neuville throughout the 2014 season, while Dani Sordo, Juho Hanninen and Chris Atkinson will share driving duties in the second car.
Citroen will field two entries with Mads Ostberg alongside Meeke and both will be hoping to make a huge impression at the multiple title-winning squad.
They’ll be looking to catch last year’s pacesetters Volkswagen, who retain world champion Ogier alongside Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen.
There’s significant interest in the M-Sport squad where returnee Mikko Hirvonen is joined by Welshman Elfyn Evans and former F1 star Robert Kubica.
The Polish driver made an instant impression in WRC2 last year, quickly earning a chance in world rallying’s premier class.
Ogier and his Volkswagen team begin the defence of their title in Monte Carlo which kicks off the season in style this January.
Rally fans in the UK are spoilt for choice this year as BT Sport, ITV Sport and Motors TV will all deliver extensive coverage from all 13 events that comprise the WRC season in 2014.
In stark contract to the TV blackout of last year’s Monte Carlo rally, UK viewers now have the choice of watching all the thrilling and jaw-dropping action from one of motorsport’s most exciting and challenging championships across three different networks.
Full details of how to follow the 2014 World Rally Championship season below:
BT Sport will be the place to watch comprehensive coverage from all 13 events on the FIA World Rally Championship schedule in 2014.
Combining live action of selected stages with daily highlights of each leg from every rally, BT Sport will deliver the most extensive coverage of the championship available on UK television.
In total, BT Sport will screen 26 stages across the 13 rallies exclusively live as the channel brings regular live rallying back to UK screens for the first time since ESPN covered the ‘Power Stages’ during the 2011 WRC season.
The network’s WRC programming will run across the broadcaster’s three television channels – BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2 and ESPN.
In addition to the live action, BT Sport’s output will also include preview and review shows for each event, plus daily highlights shows during each rally.
BT Sport will use the world feed presenting and commentary teams for its coverage, comprising of Kevin Piper, Paul King, Jon Desborough and Julian Porter.
The UK’s newest pay-TV sports channel signed a new one-year TV deal to cover the series in the week prior the first round in Monte Carlo.
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.
“They will be 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.”
Fans can watch the latest WRC video and news from the series throughout the year via the BT Sport website.
The World Rally Championship adds to BT Sport’s expanding motorsports portfolio, which also includes exclusive MotoGP coverage, as well as DTM and IndyCar.
Not a BT Sport subscriber? Find out how to get BT Sport via bt.com/sport. .
ITV Sport will continue to be the free-to-air home of the World Rally Championship in 2014.
In an identical arrangement to last year, highlights of each and every twist and turn from every WRC event will be shown on ITV4 in a one-hour review programme broadcast on Tuesday evenings following each rally.
Also as in 2013, there will be extended coverage of Wales Rally GB, which takes place on November 14-16, with daily highlights shows from the British leg of the series to be broadcast on ITV4.
Kevin Piper presents highlights of each event throughout the season alongside world feed commentators Paul King, Jon Desborough and Julian Porter.
ITV4’s WRC programming will be available to watch in high-definition on ITV4 HD and on-demand via its catch up service ITV Player.
Motors TV will also provide UK viewers with daily coverage of every World Rally Championship event this season.
The dedicated motorsports channel previously broadcast the series between 2011 and 2012 and returns to covering the championship this year with a mixture of daily highlights at selected events and rally review shows.
At every European event, Motors TV will air an exclusive half-hour magazine programme catching up on the day’s best action, including extra on-board coverage, at 10.30pm each night, with commentary provided by Colin Clark and Rebecca Williams.
The following Friday after each rally, viewers can relive the whole rally with an extended event summary, featuring exclusive and previously unseen footage.
Motors TV is available on Sky channel 447, free-to-view for non-sports package customers, and also via Virgin Media channel 545.
ROUND 1 – MONTE CARLO
Rallye Monte-Carlo is the WRC’s jewel in the crown and the oldest in the calendar, but this classic event has undergone a transformation for the new year.
Out goes the previous rally hub in Valence, in comes a new service base in Sebastien Ogier’s hometown of Gap and a substantially modified route.
The competition starts in the Haute Alpes region, then the competitors head south to Monaco for the final leg with two stages in the hinterland of Nice, one by day and the other by night.
The rally ends with the traditional awards ceremony on the square of the Prince’s Palace in Monaco.
For more information about the World Rally Championship, visit wrc.com.. . Tuesday 14th January World Rally Championship – 2014 Season Preview 10.00pm-10.30pm BT Sport 2 (Repeated on BT Sport 1 – Wed 15 Jan, 9.30pm) Thursday 16th January Day 1 Highlights 10.35pm-11.05pm Motors TV / 11.30pm-12.00am BT Sport 1 Friday 17th January Stage 9 – Vitrolles-Faye LIVE: 12.00pm-1.00pm BT Sport 2 Day 2 Highlights 10.00pm-10.30pm BT Sport 2 / 10.35pm-11.05pm Motors TV Saturday 18th January Stage 13 – Sospel-Breil Sur Roya LIVE: 2.30pm-3.30pm BT Sport 2 Power Stage – Sospel-Breil Sur Roya LIVE: 8.00pm-9.00pm BT Sport 1 Day 3 Highlights 10.35pm-11.05pm Motors TV / 12.00am-12.30am BT Sport 1 Sunday 19th January Rally Monte Carlo Review 4.30pm-5.30pm BT Sport 2 Day 4 Highlights 10.35pm-11.05pm Motors TV Tuesday 21st January World Rally Championship: Monte Carlo Highlights: 8.00pm-9.00pm ITV4