LeTV steps up to back new China Rally as 2016 WRC calendar revealed

The World Rally Championship (WRC) has put the finishing touches to its 2016 calendar, with Chinese media firm LeTV set to support the return of the motor racing series to its home country.

WRC organiser and commercial rights-holder WRC Promoter has today confirmed a 14-round series for next year, which will commence in Monte Carlo on January 22 and end in Australia on November 20.

The WRC has not competed in the Far East since the last Rally Japan in 2010, while it last staged an event in China in 1999. The all-asphalt event will run as the 10th round on September 9-11, based in the Huairou district just 70km from central Beijing. Huairou, which hosted the 1999 rally, benefited from significant investment ahead of the 2014 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting.

“WRC Promoter has signed a multi-year agreement with LeTV Sports to promote the event alongside the Federation of Automobile Sports of China,” WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla said, according to the Autosport website. “LeTV today is one of the world's largest acquirers of sports rights and WRC joins a portfolio which also includes Formula One and the English Premier League.

“We welcome China back to the series and look forward to working with a successful and highly experienced organisation. China is the biggest car market globally and by taking the WRC there, we offer manufacturers the opportunity to showcase their products via a championship focused on production-based vehicles. Its return was unanimously supported by our participating manufacturers.”

Rally China supplements the 2015 calendar’s existing 13 rounds. They are: Argentina, Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Mexico, Monte-Carlo, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. Rally Australia will move from its September date to end the championship next year.

Rally GB will remain the final European fixture as the championship’s penultimate round. It will be based in Wales on October 28-30. Rally GB, which currently serves as the season-ending event in the WRC, secured its long-term future in August. Organisers of the WRC confirmed the British round was set to remain on its calendar until at least 2018 after the event secured renewed financial backing from the Welsh government.

Rally China’s inclusion remains subject to the fulfilment of International Automobile Federation (FIA) requirements after a candidate event staged in August. Both Monte Carlo and France are on the calendar subject to finalising contractual agreements with WRC Promoter and the FIA before November 30.