FIA, ASO launch new Cross-Country World Championship around Dakar

The FIA and ASO have announced a new Cross-Country World Championship for 2022, which will have the Dakar Rally as its main event.

FIA, ASO launch new Cross-Country World Championship around Dakar

The Cross-Country World Championship will become a reality for the first time in history after years of negotiations and behind-the-scenes work between Dakar’s promoter and the governing body of motorsport. 

The proposal, as Autosport has learned, was discussed extensively by ASO and the FIA since last winter and was put to a e-vote by the World Motor Sport Council last week. 

The world championship will debut next year and will have ASO as its sole promoter for the first five seasons. The Dakar Rally will be the first round of the championship with a maximum of four more events to be announced in the coming months.

Up until now, the cross-country discipline has had a World Cup and a Bajas World Cup, but manufacturers and drivers haven’t been too committed to them. Participation in these events was done on a discretionary basis, mainly as preparation for the following year’s Dakar event. 

Three-time Dakar champion Nasser Al-Attiyah was one of the selected drivers to complete the entire season, winning the World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies four times - including three with current navigator Mathieu Baumel.

The new world championship will be the seventh under the FIA umbrella, joining Formula 1, Formula E, WRC, WEC, Rallycross and karting. 

“I am delighted of the outcome of long and fruitful discussions with ASO, which becomes the promoter of the FIA World Rally Championship for cross-country rallying, with a calendar that includes the famous Dakar,” said FIA President Jean Todt.

#305 Bahrain Raid Xtreme: Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena

#305 Bahrain Raid Xtreme: Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena

Photo by: Bahrain Raid Xtreme team

Yann Le Moenner, CEO of ASO, added: "At a time when cross-country is undergoing a fundamental transformation, the creation of an FIA World Championship is an excellent news for the development of our discipline. As its exclusive promoter, ASO is proud to integrate the Dakar Rally into the FIA 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.”

PLUS: How Prodrive plans to use trial by Dakar to spur it to victory

The T1, T2, T3 and T4 categories will be eligible to participate in the new world championship, while the FIA is working on a rule for T5 prototype trucks for 2022 with the aim of integrating as many participants as possible into the new championship. 

The series will have world champions in the categories of drivers, co-drivers and manufacturers, while the rest of the categories will also have FIA titles, but not under the name of world champions. 

As Dakar director David Castera told Autosport in May, one of the medium-term goals is to have a pyramid that is easily recognisable to fans, in a format similar to F1 with F2 and F3 or MotoGP with Moto2 and Moto3. 

"It's an idea, but I want to do a RallyGP with all the T1s, the second division with the T3s, like Moto2 in MotoGP, because we're going to give them a bit more power and the SSV-T4s will be less powerful, they'll be the entry level category,” said Castera.

“I'm trying to find the right names to have three big categories and no more, so that the public knows which category each driver drives is in, and which is the premier class. Kind of defining that pyramid of promotion to attract new people and young people. But now, working closely with the FIA, we have to agree on everything between the two of us.”

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