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After the Dakar is done and dusted on 15 January, the competitors of the W2RC will meet again to compete in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (United Arab Emirates) in February, the Sonora Rally (Mexico) in April, the Desafío Ruta 40 (Argentina) in late August, to finish in Moroccco with the Rallye du Maroc in October (see calendar). It will be a ten-month melodrama with 59 days of intense racing (prologues included).

The format developed for 2023, including two new events in the Americas and a variety of terrains, convinced famous champions such as Guerlain Chicherit and the three Audi drivers — Stéphane Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz and Mattias Ekström — to take the plunge.

Orlando Terranova, fourth in the 2022 Dakar and in the W2RC season classification, will be competing on home turf in the Desafío Ruta 40, a race he has won four times (2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018): “I’m stoked that the W2RC is coming to Argentina. I expect us to revisit Fiambalá, which the drivers explored in the Dakar, but the weather will be cooler in late August. We will also see the Argentinian fans turn out in force for the specials again. The tracks are narrower than in the other events that make up the series, with more vegetation than elsewhere. This will give the leg a different flavour compared to the Dakar, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge or Morocco. It will be one of the big additions to the calendar, although for me, the biggest one will be Mexico, with landscapes that almost no-one has ventured into before.”

The 2022 W2RC runner-up, Sébastien Loeb, spent the whole season locked in a vicious duel with Nasser Al Attiyah: “I think launching this championship was a really good idea because rally raid is an amazing discipilne. We have some wonderful rallies ahead of us, and the star-studded field means you really have to be worthy of the world champion title to win it.”

2009 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup champion, Guerlain Chicherit, is eager to repeat the exploit: “My goal is obviously to become world champion again with my new team and new car. The Dakar awards a lot of points and there are more specials, which means more points up for grabs every day, so my campaign starts here. Our victory in Morocco showed we’re on the right track, but we need to keep our feet on the ground because we have to do well throughout the season and we’re up against some seriously talented drivers! Beating Nasser [Al-Attiyah], [Sébastien] Loeb or Stéphane [Peterhansel] for the world championship would be incredible. It’s up to us to do our best. The calendar is exceptional. We’re going to South America, to Mexico, where no-one has gone before and where the specials should be similar to the bajas I know, which motivates me even more. Argentina comes up later. We won’t be able to be there for logistical reasons, but it’s no big deal, I’ll just go on a road trip there with my wife and children.”

Stéphane Peterhansel, the undisputed hegemon of the sport with 14 Dakar victories (8 in the car category), only managed to win the Cross Country Rally World Cup once, in 2019, but was delighted to discover the 2023 W2RC: “The launch of the championship last year was already a positive development, and now it’ll be adding races unlike what we are used to with its foray into Sonora in Mexico and the return to Argentina for those of us who competed in the Dakar there. Carlos [Sainz], Mattias [Ekström] and I signed up for the championship. I think we’ll see where we go from the end of the Dakar and what options are best for us. I’d like to do it.”

FIA World Rally-Raid Championship

Cross-CountrySEASON 2023SportCross-Country1SportFIA World Rally-Raid ChampionshipCross-CountrySEASON 2023Cross-Country01Monday, January 2, 2023 – 5:20pmMonday, January 2, 2023 – 5:20pm