The 2015 FIA World Rally Championship revs into action over the snow-covered mountains of Monte Carlo this weekend and fans can follow every dramatic twist and turn throughout the season with BT Sport and ITV4.
Established in 1973, the WRC is widely regarded as one of the most challenging motorsport championships in the world, pitting drivers, teams and cars against some of the toughest and most varied conditions on the planet.
In 2015, the roads on this most epic of global motorsport adventures are spread across 13 countries, with 13 rallies on everything from snow packed forest tracks to rock-strewn mountain passes, all culminating in the UK with Wales Rally GB set to be the season finale in November, via visits to Europe, North and South America and Australia over the course of the 11-month campaign.
While they look similar to the ones you might see in your local car showroom, World Rally Cars are no ordinary machines and just about everything about them is different from your typical road-going vehicle.
They are turbocharged, 1.6 litre, four-wheel drive monsters that develop more than 300bhp and masses of torque, the result of which 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.
British fans will again be able to follow the fortunes of top British drivers Elfyn Evans and Kris Meeke this season, as well as international stars Sebastien Ogier, the two-time defending world champion, as well as the likes of Jari-Matti Latvala, Thierry Neuville, Robert Kubica, Mats Ostberg, Dani Sordo and many more.
Making a one-off return to the sport in the opening round of the 2015 season will be rallying legend Sebastien Loeb, with the nine-time champion Loeb, now 40, who retired from full time rallying 14 months ago, back for a one-off appearance at the wheel of a Citroen DS 3, where he will go head to head with Volkswagen’s defending champion Ogier as he begins his quest for a third title.
Loeb will have to rediscover his art of driving a WRC car to its fullest as he goes up against Ogier, who has well and truly stamped his mark on the World Rally Championship over the past two seasons.
No longer seen as just ‘the other Sebastien’, Ogier’s rise in confidence, maturity and skill has seen him net a massive 17 wins out of the last 26 rallies, all on board his trusty Polo WRC.
Having topped off his 2014 season with a victory in Wales, there seems to be no reason why Ogier shouldn’t keep the momentum up at the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally and throughout 2015, but there’ll be a hungry gang of rivals looking to displace the Volkswagen man.
British hopes in the series will rest again this season with Citroen’s Kris Meeke, who competed in his first full season in the WRC in 2014 despite having made his debut on the world rallying stage as far back as 2002.
After finally getting his chance last year, a seventh place in the championship didn’t do justice to some of the strong drives Meeke had, with the 35-year-old Northern Irishman often the only driver capable of matching the Volkswagen trio for pace, and with Citroen team principal Yves Matton sticking with Meeke for 2015, the 35-year-old should finally have a chance to show that he’s one of the best rally drivers in the world.
Welshman Elfyn Evans will also be looking to establish himself further in 2015 following an impressive showing for M-Sport Ford last season, with his controlled, assured approach in his first season in the senior category impressing many within the sport who have tipped him to become Britain’s next World Rally champion in the future.
Rallying fans in the UK are once again spoilt for choice this year as BT Sport, ITV Sport, S4C Motors TV will all deliver extensive coverage throughout the 2015 World Rally Championship season.
In stark contract to the TV blackout of the Monte Carlo rally in 2013, 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 at least four different networks.
BT Sport will be the place to watch comprehensive coverage from all 13 rounds on the FIA World Rally Championship schedule in 2015.
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.
As in 2014, BT Sport will screen a minimum of 26 stages across the 13 rallies exclusively live, with the network’s WRC programming running across the broadcaster’s three 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 deal to cover the series last year in the week prior the first round in Monte Carlo.
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 impressive 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 2015.
In an identical arrangement to the previous two years, 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 2014, there will be extended coverage of Wales Rally GB, which takes place on November 13-15, 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.
Welsh-speaking rally fans will be able to follow this year’s World Rally Championship action with S4C’s Ralio+ programmes.
The presenting and reporting team of Emyr Penlan, Lowri Morgan and Howard Davies will return from the spring with all the latest news from the world of rallying, both on the global stage as well as at grassroots level.
The series will climax with S4C’s extensive coverage of the 2015 Wales Rally GB over the weekend of November 13-15, with the channel again set to screen daily highlights and special preview programmes direct from the event.
S4C’s Ralio+ website will feature all the latest news and updates from the series, including links to its social media sites and details of other major Welsh motorsport events.
To receive S4C outside Wales, fans can watch it for free via satellite or online – on Sky 134 or via the S4C website or on Freesat channel 120, while all Ralio+ programmes are available to watch on catch-up via s4c.co.uk/clic.
Motors TV will also again provide UK viewers with daily coverage of every World Rally Championship event this season.
The dedicated motorsports channel returned to covering the championship last year after a year’s absence and will continue to screen 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.
As well as being available on Sky channel 447, free-to-view for non-sports package customers, and via Virgin Media channel 545, Motors TV is also available nationwide on Freeview and Youview.
Thursday 22nd January Stage 1: Entrevaux > Rouaine LIVE: 7.00pm-8.00pm BT Sport 1
Friday 23rd January Day 1 Highlights 10.00pm-10.30pm BT Sport 2 / 10.35pm-11.05pm Motors TV
Saturday 24th January Day 2 Highlights 10.00pm-10.30pm BT Sport 2 / 10.30pm-11.00pm Motors TV
Sunday 25th January Stage 13: Col St Jean > St Laurent 1 LIVE: 8.30am-9.30am BT Sport 2 Stage 15: Col St Jean > St Laurent 2 LIVE: 11.00am-12.00pm BT Sport 2 Day 3 Highlights 10.00pm-10.30pm BT Sport 2 / 10.35pm-11.05pm Motors TV
Monday 26th January Rally Monte Carlo Review 4.30pm-5.30pm BT Sport 2 Day 4 Highlights 10.35pm-11.05pm Motors TV
Tuesday 27th January World Rally Championship: Monte Carlo Highlights: 10.00pm-11.00pm ITV4