Tarmac next as FIA Rally Star drivers head to Austria

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FIA Rally Star Training Season - Round Two, Rallye Weiz (AUT) - Event Preview

FIA Rally Star - Ford Fiesta Rally3 on Tarmac

The FIA Rally Star Training Season continues in Austria this week with six young talents preparing to take on the programme’s first Tarmac event, Rallye Weiz, from July 13-15.

The programme, which aims to find a future FIA World Rally Championship winner, is putting six rookie rally drivers through their paces on six national-level events between June and November in identical Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta Rally3 cars prepared and maintained by M-Sport Poland. 

At the end of the FIA Rally Star Training Season, the four best performing drivers will win fully-funded drives in the FIA Junior WRC Championship in 2024.

To get this far, the six drivers, who all have limited competition experience, had to qualify for their Continental Final via selection events organised by their ASNs or through online competitions. The winners of the five Continental Finals plus the winner of the Women’s Final were then chosen for the FIA Rally Star Training Season.

Rallye Weiz is the second event on the FIA Rally Star Training Season schedule and one of two asphalt-based events. It follows on from last month’s San Marino Rally, where Taylor Gill and co-driver Daniel Brkic won the Rally3 category in a fine 10th position overall to underline their potential.

The challenge in store

Organised by a dedicated team of volunteer officials from Rallye Club Steiermark, Rallye Weiz is based in the town of Weiz in Austria’s Styria region and consists of 13 stages over a competitive distance of 145.30 kilometres. One of the highlights of the Austrian championship season, the event’s stages are typically undulating in nature with numerous grip and rhythm changes adding to the challenge facing the crews. Spectators attend the event in great number and create a memorable atmosphere with the start and finish ceremonies not to be missed. As well as forming the second event on the FIA Rally Star Training Season schedule, Rallye Weiz forms round nine of the FIA European Rally Trophy.

FIA Rally Star latest news and views

  • With a background in karting, Peruvian Jose ‘Abito’ Caparo plans to utilise his knowledge of driving on Tarmac but accepts Rallye Weiz will be a completely different experience in his Ford Fiesta Rally3.
  • As well as his usual physical fitness regime, Romet Jürgenson has been carrying out various concentration exercises after last month’s San Marino Rally “didn’t fully go to plan” for the Estonian.
  • Following Rallye Weiz, Jürgenson will contest his home round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Rally Estonia, from July 20-23 in a Ford Fiesta Rally4.
  • Taylor Gill hopes experience gained from a Tarmac test during the FIA Rally Star Training Camp in Sardinia plus a day of asphalt training in Italy will help him progress on what will be his first sealed-surface rally.
  • The Australian has also been watching onboard footage from recent editions of Rallye Weiz plus some FIA WRC events “to get an idea of what to expect and to pick up as much information as possible”. He plans to visit the upcoming WRC events in Estonia and Finland to build his knowledge of rally formats and organisation.
  • Max Smart has spent timing on a simulator and driving a kart in his native South Africa. He’s also been working with a sports psychologist. 
  • Like Caparo, Gill, Smart and Taylor, Abdullah Al-Tawqi from Oman and Peru’s Annia Cilloniz are preparing to compete on Tarmac for the first time.
  • Cilloniz has been practicing her pacenotes, watching videos about driving on Tarmac as well as her usual fitness routine.
  • Meanwhile, Al-Tawqi’s preparations have included recce practice, improving corner entry and exit and braking techniques.

FIA Rally Star Project Leader Jérôme Roussel said: “We saw some very encouraging performances from all six FIA Rally Star drivers on the San Marino Rally and we must congratulate them on their efforts to put into practice all they had learned from the expert advisors during the FIA Rally Star Training Camp. We also recognise the various challenges they encountered and the mechanisms they used for overcoming them. More importantly, however, we could identify a number of areas for each driver where more focus is required and that has been the priority over the last few weeks. The debriefs we organised after the San Marino Rally were a great way to further understand where any special support might be necessary and we commend the drivers for their feedback. Although we’ll be expecting more progression from all six on Rallye Weiz, they are all aware of the importance to reach the finish and gain as much experience as possible.”

FIA Rally Star project leader Jérôme Roussel speaking with M-Sport Poland's CEO Maciej Woda

Max Smart said: “It’s going to be my first Tarmac event and I’m very excited coming out of San Marino, which was my first ever rally. I learned so much there, the areas where I need to improve and I’ve been focusing on those areas and fixing them up in the gap between the rallies. I’ve been working on everything from my mental preparation with a sports psychologist to actually driving on a simulator and in a kart. I’m confident coming into Rallye Weiz and I’ve got more tools with me to help me improve and develop. My co-driver Lorcan has got lots of experience on Tarmac so I’m sure I’m going to learn lots from him and I’ll be taking his advice throughout the rally week. All in all, I’m really stoked and keen to get back behind the wheel of my Ford Fiesta Rally3.”

FIA Rally Star competitor Max Smart from South Africa

FIA Rally Star Training Season participants (in Rallye Weiz start number order)

46. Taylor Gill (19, AUS)/Daniel Brkic (AUS)
47. Romet Jürgenson (23, EST)/Siim Oja (EST)
48. Jose ‘Abito’ Caparo (26, PER)/‘Willy’ Guillermo Sierra Ovalle (PER)
49. Abdullah Al-Tawqi (24, OMN)/Ronan Comerford (IRL) 
50. Max Smart (20, ZAF)/Lorcan Moore (IRL)
51. Annia Cilloniz (24, PER)/Esther Gutierrez (ESP)

FIA Rally Star Training Season event schedule refresher

The FIA Rally Star Training Season consists of six events, four on gravel and two on Tarmac:

•    San Marino Rally (Gravel), June 16-17
•    Rallye Weiz, Austria (Tarmac), July 13-15
•    Rally Nova Gorica, Slovenia (Tarmac), September 22-24
•    Rally Saarema, Estonia (Gravel), October 6-7
•    RallyRACC, Spain (Gravel), October 20-21
•    Lausitz Rallye, Germany (Gravel), November 9-11

A test will take place ahead of each event along with an extensive post-rally debrief. The FIA Rally Star Training Season events have been specifically chosen to equip the drivers with experience of a wide variety of conditions and circumstances. 

The six FIA Rally Star Training Season participants will compete in identical Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta Rally3s run by M-Sport Poland.

All costs are covered by the FIA with the best four drivers at the completion of the FIA Rally Star Training Season securing a fully-funded season in the FIA Junior WRC Championship in 2024.