2018 WRC calendar confirmed; no NZ
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The 2018 World Rally Championship calendar has been confirmed overnight and New Zealand has missed out.
The 13-round calendar marks the return of Turkey after a seven-year absence. It replaces Poland in the fixture list, which was approved by the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris.
Just three of the 13 rallies take place outside Europe begging the question about it being far from a world championship.
New Zealand seemed certain for a return in 2018 over the past year but once Turkey came into the picture it began to look less likely. Cost was thrown up as an excuse but it seems more likely the financial package offered by Turkey was stronger than Rally New Zealand - despite organisers putting together the strongest ever financial proposal.
The championship begins with the traditional season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo in January and features a mix of gravel, asphalt, snow and ice action.
Turkey returns to the WRC for the first time since 2010. The 10th round will be based in the popular international holiday resort of Marmaris, in the south-west of the country, on September 13-16.
The gravel event will feature fast to medium-speed special stages, including a mix of smooth open roads near Marmaris and more demanding rocky mountain passes in Mugla state.
Turkish motorsport federation TOSFED will organise the rally, which will be one of the most compact in WRC history with several stages starting or finishing close to the service park. The speed tests hug the coast in places, guaranteeing dramatic TV images for fans.
WRC manufacturers Toyota, Hyundai and Ford build vehicles in Turkey, which was Europe's fifth largest automotive producer in 2016 with almost 1.5 million vehicles constructed.
The season begins later than in 2017 as Monte-Carlo moves back a week to January 25-28. The second round in Sweden is also seven days later on February 15-18.
Following the seventh round in Italy on June 7-10, there will be a six-week break before the second half of the season begins in Finland on July 26-29.
Great Britain switches from late October and will run three weeks earlier on October 4-7, allowing the event to also count for the British Rally Championship.
Spain swaps with Great Britain to become the final European round and the penultimate event of the season. It reverts to its more traditional slot on October 25-28.
WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla said the 2018 calendar offered heritage and originality.
"The 2018 season brings an enticing blend of WRC tradition and history, in the form of classic and long-standing rounds such as Sweden, Argentina and Finland, with a welcome return to Turkey," he said.
"Turkey is a hugely important automotive market, in terms of sales and manufacturing. Record sales of almost a million vehicles were recorded in 2016 and the sporting reasons for its reintroduction are matched by a compelling business rationale.
"We offer manufacturers the opportunity to showcase their products in a championship focused on production-based cars, and I'm delighted Turkey's return was unanimously supported by our participating manufacturers," he added.