Friday, July 19, 2024

W2RC to add Iberian round in 2024

The World Rally-Raid Championship‘s 2024 schedule will not be released until July, but one known round following the season-opening Dakar Rally is the introduction of a race on the Iberian Peninsula that goes through Portugal and Spain. David Castera, director of the Dakar Rally, revealed the new calendar slot at the Dakar Tour in Prague on Thursday.

The inaugural W2RC in 2022 concluded with the Andalucía Rally in southern Spain, having moved to the final race of the season from its original June date due to a heat wave in the region. It was removed from the 2023 calendar, ending a three-year run for the rally.

On the Portuguese side, the Pax Rally was part of the first Dakar Series in 2008, a “mini championship” to replace that year’s Dakar Rally following cancellation. In 2021, Portugal was supposed to welcome the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies (predecessor to the W2RC) with the BP Ultimate Portugal Cross-Country Rally, but COVID-19 travel restrictions resulted in its cancellation.

Both countries sanction cross-country rally championships with Spain’s Campeonato Español de Rallies Todo Terreno (CERTT) and Portugal’s Campeonato Portugal de Todo-o-terreno (CPTT). The 2023 CERTT season began in March and is currently three rounds in, while the CPTT’s is in its summer break after four races. Each championship also hosts rounds in conjunction with the World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas with the Baja España Aragón and Baja Portalegre, and the Portuguese Baja TT Sharish Reguengos Mourão is on the European Cup schedule as well.

While Andalucía and the Pax Rally were exclusively held in their respective countries, the Transibérico Rally ran through both in the 2000s and was part of the World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies. Carlos Sainz won his maiden rally raid in the 2007 edition before going on to enjoy a decorated career at the Dakar Rally with three victories.

The Iberian rally will be the first time that the W2RC crosses borders for a race. The World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies last did so with the Silk Way Rally as the 2021 edition went through Russia and Mongolia.

The 2024 season will begin with the Dakar Rally on 5–19 January. The start date is slightly later than usual as organisers hoped to give teams more time to prepare and enjoy the new year.