We’ve already asked some team bosses about the changes for next year and the future of cross-country rallies but what about the other side of the table? In this part of our Crystal Ball series we asked the most competent: FIA Cross-Country Rally Championships Sporting Delegate and Category Manager Jerome Roussel.
"We have many changes for 2023. The main target was first to simplify, to have regulations that are simpler for competitors. For example, we put all the penalties that were spread across the regulations in an appendix at the end, so it’s easier for the competitors to know what would happen if they did an infringement.
We also removed all the technical stuff back to technical regulations, before there was some technical info in the sporting regulations. We worked on many, many topics for the Dakar, for the marathon stage we reviewed all the regulations. We also reviewed the starting order that was an issue this year, so we tried to find a better solution for the future. We did hundreds of changes for next year.
For me the ten-minute penalty for losing a wheel is not a big change. The good thing is that now you know what will happen. At the moment when you lose a wheel, you go to the stewards, and sometimes it can be a penalty, sometimes a fine. Next year it will be ten minutes, full stop. So I think it’s better, it will eliminate some discussions. It’s not a big change but we did a few like this. For me the main change is to have reviewed the regulations with the main teams and to have simplified what could be simplified."
No neutralisation zone for T1 and T2
"The T1 drivers could get some information by watching the GPS of their rivals to see what the gaps were, so the second part of the stage was maybe less interesting. Now they will have to push from start to finish, they will not stop at the neutralisation. It is there to refill the T3s and T4s, but it was useless for the T1s to stop, so we removed it to make sure the race is interesting from A to Z for the drivers.
We cannot do the same for the T3 and T4, because they need to refuel. We cannot stop the spectators being there to give information either but it is forbidden. We will also make sure we limit the presence of team personnel which are sometimes “disguised” as media. We will work to make sure that the refuelling zone is really only for refuelling and not for the teams to give information to the crews.
Regarding the watches, banning them from the cars completely is also a new thing, but now a watch that looks like a normal watch can have some connected functions: GPS, 5G and so on, so the simplest solution was to remove them and to put them in the same pouch as the phones."
New rules for priority drivers
"This is new for this year to give a kind of hierarchy, with different privileges and different duties. Sometimes you can become a priority driver and it comes with some things you have to do, or to pay, and that’s not fair. So, we wanted to have these three scales in the pyramid.
The platinum will be the ‘top guns’ that try to win Dakar every year. On Platinum we'll have 5 drivers, on Gold 15-20 maximum, so it will be a shorter list than before, based on criteria of the previous year’s performance."
What about the future?
"For the future of the sporting regulations we don’t have anything planned, we do it for the next year and after we will see what we do for 2024. We don’t have to anticipate so much. If we want to change something, we do it for next year, we don’t have to wait two years to implement it. So everything we saw and wanted to do, we’ve done it for next year.
Communication between the FIA, teams, organisers is super important. It’s a new way of working. The World Championship is just one year old, so the more we spend time together, the more we know each other, the easier communication is. We are open to every discussion, every suggestion, we are not working on our own. I love to discuss with competitors, small and big ones, to get their opinions on things we should improve for the future."
Text: Rita Kónya
Interview: Sveta Amelichkina
Photos: RallyZone, social media