The International Automobile Federation (FIA) and Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) have announced a new Cross-Country World Championship starting next season with the Dakar Rally as its star event.
After several years of negotiations between the two organizations, the new contest will finally see the light in the upcoming 2022 season. The final agreement was reached only last week and after the proposal was put to an e-vote by the World Motor Sport Council.
As per the above-mentioned agreement, the Cross-Country World Championship will have ASO as its sole promoter for its initial five years. To give the new contest a popularity boost, the Dakar Rally will be the inaugural round of the season.
Although the exact number of rounds that will make up the Cross-Country World Championship is still to be specified, there will only be a maximum of five, including the legendary opening rally, which is currently being held in Saudi Arabia.
The objective of this new competition is to give greater relevance to the rally discipline, which until now was confined to the World Rally Championship and the Bajas World Cup, both of which had been unable to attract any of the greatest stars of the specialty, besides the Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah. The big rally names occasionally take part in the post-summer European rounds and only in preparation for the Dakar.
Initially, four categories have been agreed upon; T1, T2, T3, and T4 but discussions are still ongoing regarding the inclusion of a T5 prototype truck category in 2022 with the aim of promoting an entry list as large as possible.
As for the titles up for grabs at the new Cross-Country World Championship, there will be a driver, a co-driver, and a manufacturer crown. The structure of the competitive format has been made to mirror that of Formula 1 with its F2 and F3 classes or MotoGP with Moto2 and Moto3. The new event will be FIA’s Championship number seven after Formula 1, WRC, WEC, Rallycross, Formula E, and Karting.
Jean Todt, FIA President, said: “I am delighted of the outcome of long and fruitful discussions with A.S.O., which becomes the promoter of the FIA World Rally Championship for cross-country rallying, with a calendar that includes the famous Dakar.”
Yann Le Moënner, CEO of Amaury Sport Organisation, said: “At a time when cross-country is undergoing a fundamental transformation, the creation of an FIA Cross-Country World Championship is an excellent news for the development of our discipline. As its exclusive promoter, A.S.O. is proud to integrate the Dakar Rally into the FIA Cross-Country World Championship calendar, and will work to promote the events in order to better showcase the technical expertise of the car manufacturers taking part in these rallies in extreme conditions”.
“The World Championship will accompany them in this progressive transition to alternative energies, with the FIA integrating categories and classifications specific to these new technologies into the technical regulations. Through the FIA World Championship, drivers, manufacturers and organisers will also benefit from year-round exposure, increasing media coverage of the discipline and its audience worldwide.”
Images of FIA Cross-Country World Championship: Dakar