Sports / Motor news

Top rally returns to Beijing after 17 years

By Sun Xiaochen ( Updated: 2016-06-08 15:42

The World Rally Championship, one of the most exciting motor-racing series worldwide, will return to China after 17 years to thrill fans in the big auto nation, organizers announced on Tuesday.

The WRC -- a rally series driven on different surfaces, such as grave, tarmac and snow, around the world -- announced in Beijing on Tuesday that it had added a new fixture in the Chinese capital on its tight 2016 calendar, which already includes 13 races from January to November.

While exact dates are yet to be decided, the Beijing leg, scheduled in early September, will mark the high-profile event's return to the world's most populous country, since its last appearance in 1999.

The Beijing race boasts 16 timed sections, or stages, on tarmac courses and a total length of 300 kilometers across three suburb districts: Huairou, Miyun and Yanqing. The total race distance will be more than 1,300km, including between-stage transitions.

Established in 1973, the WRC has spread to 15 countries, involving 18 drivers from 10 teams. The championship awards the drivers' and the manufactures' titles separately based on points calculated from every race, every year. The International Automobile Federation, the world governing body of motor sports, manages the championship.

The WRC pitted its inaugural race in Beijing in 1999 but has never come back due to the withdrawal of several major sponsors, until now.

During this year's Beijing race, the China Rally Championship will also be held simultaneously to provide local drivers a close-up opportunity to observe and learn from their advanced foreign counterparts, according to the Federation of Automobile and Motorcycle Sports of China.

"Rally race is the very early form of motor racing accepted in China. Hopefully the return of WRC will further promote motor sports culture in China and help local auto brands reach out to the world," said Wan Heping, vice-chairman of the Chinese federation.

According to the China Association of Automobile Manufactures, 24.5 million vehicles were produced in China last year while 24.59 million were sold, marking the seventh-consecutive year China topped the world's auto market.

Beijing-based company Le Sports played an instrumental role in bringing the championship back, as the Beijing race's promotion and marketing partner. Le Sports has also purchased the digital media rights to broadcast the WRC from 2016 to 2018.

It will do so live on all-media platforms, including its streaming website and mobile app, while marketing rally-related products on its online shopping platform.

"The motor racing industry has a mature business mode overseas with sub-businesses covering all aspects of our life. Bringing WRC back to China, we expect we build our own motor sports structure and culture and boost relevant businesses," said Lei Zhenjian, Le Sports' chief executive.

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