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World Rally Championship 2017 Odds

Who wins the World Rally Championship 2017?

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World Rally Championship organisers have unveiled a provisional 12-round calendar for the 2017 season, but with the potential to add two more rounds. The 12 confirmed events include the 14 that were on 2016 schedule, excluding Poland and China.

However, both events, plus Turkey - which was last visited by the WRC in 2010 - have been listed as potential candidates for 13th or 14th events. The season kicks off with the Monte Carlo Rally on January 20-22, with Rally Australia listed as the final event on an as-yet undecided date.

Six of the seven rallies – Monte-Carlo, Sweden, Mexico, Argentina, Portugal and Italy – have similar dates to this season, but France moves forward from late September to become the fourth round in early April. Five other rallies – Finland, Germany, Spain, Great Britain and Australia – were also confirmed on the calendar but their dates have still to be finalised.

It has also been confirmed that only manufacturer-backed entries will be allowed to use the new generation of more powerful 2017 World Rally Cars, with privateer entries limited to the current specification cars. As such, the FIA has created a new Privateers' Cup for those competing with older machinery. In addition, manufacturers will be allowed to nominate up to three points-scoring cars per rally next year, with the points scored by the best two finishers among them counting towards the championship.

More technologically advanced than ever, and faster down the stages, the current cars demand a smoother, less flamboyant driving style than their forebears. Just such a style saw Sebastien Loeb take an incredible nine WRC titles, but from a spectator’s perspective, the lack of drama in the series is at odds with its past glories.

The new regulations could change that, visually at least. For a start, power will rise from the current 300bhp or so to 380bhp, thanks to a larger 36mm turbo restrictor. Combined with a new aerodynamics package, which allows a larger rear wing, 55mm increase in width and greater overhangs at the front and rear, it’ll be the closest WRC has got to Group B since the legendary class was banned in 1987.

In addition, the 2017 cars will be 25kg lighter, and use electronically-controlled centre differentials. The aim, says FIA technical director Bernard Niclot, is to ‘make the car spectacular’, whilst being mindful of costs and maintaining – if not increasing – safety. Feedback from the drivers is already positive. Current champion Sebastien Ogier told the official WRC website, ‘As a racing driver you are always looking for more performance…the extra power will definitely make the driving more spectacular for the fans.’

The manufacturers are hard at work developing their 2017 FIA World Rally Championship challengers and starred at one of the world’s leading auto shows as they showed prototype versions. Toyoda was accompanied by team principal Tommi Mäkinen and unveiled a Yaris WRC Test Car sporting Microsoft livery. Hyundai’s i20 World Rally Car is based on the three-door i20 road car and the livery in Paris is an interim version, with the final specification and look due to be revealed in December. Citroën confirmed that its 2017 contender would be named the C3 WRC. Although not the finished version, Citroën says the Paris car is ‘very close’ to the final design of the challenger which will make its WRC debut at Rallye Monte-Carlo next January.