All to play for in Italy for FIA Cross Car Academy Trophy contenders

  • Title rivals Emilien Allart and Diego Gonzales Martinez to the fore in practice
  • Impressive Amalie Zidkova and newcomer Marcus Martinelli boost grid to 12
  • First heat races claimed by Gonzales Martinez and Jordan Genten


The penultimate round of the 2023 FIA Cross Car Academy Trophy began today at the Maggiora Off-Road Arena, an hour outside Milan. In conditions that ranged from autumn sun to torrential downpours, the 12 drivers competing in their fleet of identically-matched LifeLive TN5 cross cars put on a highly entertaining show for the large and appreciative Italian crowd.

As the ideal showcase for young talent aiming towards a career in rallying, rallycross or autocross competition, the Cross Car Academy Trophy is intended for national sporting bodies to promote their young talent on the international stage.

Managed and mentored by the team at LifeLive, the series is in its third season, with past champions numbering Gil Membrado (2021), subsequently the youngest driver ever signed to Red Bull’s rally driver development programme, and the rising star of open Cross Car competition this season, Miguel Gayoso Vazquez (2022).

At the top end of the points table coming to Maggiora, Belgium’s series sophomore Emilien Allart has seen his early season advantage being whittled away over the summer by the increasing form of Diego Gonzàlez Martinez. As the winner of the previous round in Prerov, Martinez is aiming to become the third Spaniard to claim the Cross Car Academy Trophy – and understandably he and Allart were right on the pace from the first practice session.

Also in contention for this year’s title are Belgians Jordan Genten and Lucas Cartelle, together with Italy’s Matteo Bernini, who sought to capitalise on his home ground advantage from the start of the weekend.

Adding further to the prospect of an intriguing weekend was the pace of Amalie Zidkova, whose series debut at Prerov produced the sort of speed needed to challenge for the podium. Once again in Maggiora, Amalie was keeping pace with the very fastest contenders from the start of the first practice session.

Her example of how to make a debut in the Cross Car Academy Trophy was being closely followed by Italian youngster Marcus Martinelli as he learned the ropes while displaying plenty of talent – ending up the fastest Italian after the practice sessions ended.

After the three practice sessions were complete, the grid for the first pair of heats was decided with Gonzalez Martinez on pole alongside Allart and fellow Belgian driver Marius Debuisson for the first wheel-to-wheel encounter, with the second row of the grid filled by Argentinean youngster Juan Manuel Grigera, Italian Alexander Karim Mancusi and Monegasque Tomas Pregliasco.

The first corner saw a little jostling for position from which Debuisson was bounced down the order, leaving Allart with Gonzalez Martinez hounding him as they pulled clear from the rest of the field. Eventually the Spaniard got cleanly by and soaked up the pressure from the championship leader to claim first blood, Pregliasco coming through impressively behind the leaders.

The second heat saw Cartelle on pole from Genten and Zidkova, with newcomer Martinelli heading the second row from Bernini and Germany’s Bryan Neumayer, who recently claimed his national ADAC Cross Car championship title.

It was Genten who got the drop on the field at the start, following up his immaculate launch off the line with some highly determined lappery, taking noticeably more air over the jumps and a wider, smoother line to dominate his heat and end the day as the fastest of all.

Cartelle took second place in the heat, with Zidkova dropping back to fifth as Martinelli and Bernini’s battle to be the best Italian carried them to third and fourth respectively.

“It’s been a good day,” said Gonzalez Martinez after his win. “I wasn’t happy with the setup in warm-up but we worked on the car and I found balance and rhythm through practice.”

The action will continue with two more rounds of heats on Sunday morning with the bottom two drivers being eliminated before the event Final.

“It’s good to see more drivers this weekend, it makes it more fun,” said Allart. “Of course as a driver you want to win every session but I am thinking of the championship and don’t want to lose points from pushing too hard too early.”