South Africa has been included on the calendar for the FIA Cross Country World Cup next year.
South Africa's elevation to the World Cup has been ratified at a meeting of the FIA World Council in Rome. This follows the success of the Toyota Dealer 1000 in Mpumalanga in October, which was an FIA observed event, with the FIA Cross Country Rally Commission - headed by Derek Ledger - recommending that South Africa be included on next year's calendar.
In a major boost for off road racing and motorsport in South Africa, the FIA World Council ratified the recommendation. South Africa now takes it place alongside such events as the UAE Desert Challenge and other major events on the championship calendar.
The ratification also serves as a legacy to the late Arthur Abraham who died in July after a short illness. Abraham, a well-known South African motorsport official and promoter and a staunch off road supporter, set the ball rolling for South Africa's inclusion in the World Cup when he made initial overtures to the FIA Cross Country Rally Commission in 2004.
"We were aware of the FIA Cross Country Rally Commission recommendation," said Charmaine Fortune, promoter of the SA event which will be known as the Africa Heritage Cross Country Rally to be run in August next year. "We were also confident the FIA World Council would give the final go ahead, but the official announcement has come as a tremendous relief.
"To be part of a world championship is a huge step forward for off road racing in this country. It is sad Arthur is not here to share it with us, but his vision and the work he put into the project before his death has not gone un-rewarded."
Ms Fortune added that all she could do was heap praise on chief organiser Willie du Plessis and his team, from the South African Motorsport Club, and everyone involved in the organisation of the Toyota Dealer 1000. Because of FIA observer status the event had to be upgraded from a two-day 400 kilometre race to a three-day 1000 kilometre affair, with du Plessis and his team saddled with the tough task of identifying around 800 kilometres of roads not previously used for off road racing or rallying.
"It is a feather in the cap for off road racing and for the SAM team that performed above and beyond the call of duty," said du Plessis. "Much of the credit must also go to the people of Mpumalanga, and especially Lydenburg and surrounding areas of Sabie, Roossenekal, Dullstroom, Belfast, Machadodorp, Laerdrif & Stoffberg, who gave us tremendous support and assistance.
"The FIA World Council ratification wasn't too much of a surprise, but we'll now carefully study the observer's report to identify possible problem areas. We have around eight months to plan for next year, but for the moment we'll sit back and bask in a little glory."