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DYNAMIC new cars and a thrilling season-long title battle have sparked record attendances at this year’s FIA World Rally Championship.

Figures from the initial 10 WRC rounds show fans are flocking to view this season’s gripping action and crowds have risen by five percent compared with 2016 to more than 3,750,000 people.

With the final three fixtures still to add to the tally, including the finale at Kennards Hire Rally Australia on 16-19 November, the attendance across all 13 rounds is on course to create a record for the modern-era WRC.

“The figures emphasise the new-for-2017 cars are a huge draw for fans. With the last three rallies in Spain, Great Britain and Australia still to be included, attendances across all 13 rounds are on course to shatter four million,” said WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla.

Eight of the 10 rallies have reported more spectators than last year, based on ticket sales, local authority and police estimates.

Italy recorded the biggest increase with crowds at the Sardinia event up by a huge 59 percent.

Sweden’s move to a new base in Torsby delivered a 33 percent rise for February’s snow-and-ice fixture. The drama of the rally-closing Power Stage finishing in the service park for the first time, followed immediately by the podium ceremony, generated a surge in fan numbers.

Argentina and Portugal both topped 950,000 spectators to remain the championship’s best-attended rounds and a spectacular opening at Zócalo square in the heart of Mexico City helped the fixture top 550,000, more than 14 percent higher than in 2016.

“WRC spectator numbers show a steady positive development since 2013. We expect the final 2017 figures to reveal an increase of nearly 30 percent against those from just five seasons ago,” Ciesla said.

Explaining this year’s increase, he added: “Fans have loved the appeal of more powerful and spectacular World Rally Cars that have produced such great action, as well as the most exciting and unpredictable drivers’ title fight in a decade.”

Six different drivers representing four manufacturer teams have won a rally this year and three remain in title contention with two rounds left in Great Britain and Australia.

The encouraging figures follow half-yearly data from independent analyst Nielsen Sports which showed the WRC’s worldwide broadcast time also rose again by 10 percent and the global TV audience by 17 percent from the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo to June’s Rally Italia Sardegna.

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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.

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