Saturday, March 2, 2024

FIA finalises Cross-Country Rally regulations ahead of 2024

With the 2024 season fast approaching, the FIA published the official Cross-Country Rally Sporting Regulations last Thursday, codifying a swath of rule changes that have been in the works since summer along with introducing new ones granted by the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council in October.

Administrative changes

Most changes are for administrative and scorekeeping purposes like requiring all competitors to sign and present a Driver Declaration and Undertakings form, which affirms they have read and understood the rules outlined by both the FIA and the national sporting federation hosting the rally.

For consistency, Articles 19 and 20 were updated to provide uniform number decal placement across all series, with everyone now expected to follow the Dakar Rally’s own policy. These numbers must also have a colour background depending on the vehicle’s class: Ultimate (formerly T1) entries use the Pantone 1255 C shade of brown, Challenger (T3) gets the yellow Pantone 3514 C, SSV (T4) has Pantone 3559 C purple, Stock (T2) competitors rock with grey Pantone 402 C, and Trucks use black.

Prologue and Stage #1 start order

The Prologue stage will no longer count towards the overall results due to their short length between five and thirty kilometres. They do hold some value nonetheless as they set the top ten start order for Stage #1; if a Prologue is not held, the top ten in the championship will be used to determine the grid.

The regulations have added Article 34.1.3, which states the Prologue starting interval between cars within the same class must be uniform and at least one minute apart, though the first starter must wait three minutes before beginning.

Unlike in the other stages, Prologue times include tenths of a second for more precise scoring because of how short the legs are. For 2024, the times will no longer be rounded to the nearest tenth.

The start order for Ultimate cars has also been tweaked, as discussed in TCF‘s story here.

Race conduct

Article 27.3.1 of Appendix I has added ten-second time penalties for every infraction when a competitor goes over the speed limit by up to five kilometres per hour. If they exceed six km/h, it becomes a minute-long penalty for each instance. These instances, also known as pulses, are signals recorded by the car’s navigation system. Drivers must respect the area’s traffic laws, which serve as the primary speed limiter via Speed Control Zones; if the speed recorded by the GPS differs from the speed limit, the lower speed is scored.

If one encounters a slower car in front of them, they can relay a request to overtake, which must be obeyed once three requests are made within forty-five seconds. For 2024, these requests can no longer be made when in a Speed Control Zone. To provide “flexibility to the organisers”, the FIA has eliminated Article 37.2.3 that prohibited more than two Speed Control Zones with different speeds in a given stage.

When not in a timed Selective Section, competitors are now allowed to help each other as long as they are still in the rally.

If a team misses forty percent of the waypoints in a given Selective Section, they will be deemed as a retirement. This rule was clarified as the original wording suggested liaison stages, where teams travel to and from the SS, also count for the forty percent. If a truck retires from a stage, they are not formally ruled out of the race altogether unless they miss three consecutive days.

A seemingly benign but unusually impactful rule change comes regarding driver wear as navigators are now permitted to wear more wristwatch models for keeping time. At the 2023 Dakar Rally, Yasir Saeidan was infamously penalised because his co-driver Alexey Kuzmich wore an unapproved watch model, a policy intended to prevent people from using watches that might have tracking and navigation. For 2024, co-drivers may now wear the Casio W-202-1AV and WS-1400H-1AV, the Decathlon Kalenji W100 and W200, and the Fastime Copilote RW3.

Technical changes

Equivalence of Technology, a controversial policy that allows the FIA to adjust the top speed of T1+ and T1.U cars-the latter consisting of electric vehicles-to ensure a level playing field, has been tweaked. To determine how much the speeds should be modified, the FIA gauges the top T1+ and T1.U cars as they run between 90 and 160 km/h; in the past, this range was 70 to 150 km/h.

Fees for EoT were due on Wednesday. A T1+ car registered for the W2RC must pay €1,500, whereas those not competing for points must cough up €4,000; points-earning T1.U cars had to pay €15,000 whereas non-championship cars in the subcategory do double.

When a car is late to technical inspection, they will have a minute added to their time in the W2RC. In the Baja Cups, this penalty remains ten seconds per overdue minute.

Championship changes

The World Rally-Raid Championship points structure stays the same for 2024, though the Truck category will no longer award a trophy due to a lack of entrants outside of the Dakar Rally and Rallye du Maroc. Meanwhile, marques must now enter all five W2RC rounds to be eligible for the manufacturer’s championship; previously, a manufacturer only needed to enter four of five, while those who signed up to earn points but do not run the required amount lose all of what they earned.

If a driver retires from a rally, they will be allowed to keep the stage points they earned prior to their exit. The only stipulation is that their vehicle must be present in parc fermé at the end of the race an hour before the unofficial results are published.

As announced in September, the FIA Cups for Cross-Country Bajas have been renamed the World, European, and Middle East Baja Cups for 2024. All results here will count towards the standings, though points will only be awarded to those registered for the championship. Points allocations per race vary based on the amount of entrants per class, with a multiplier of 1 if there are five or fewer cars, 1.2 for six to ten, and 1.5 for 11 or more.

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