Chase for FIA Rally Star African Final prize heads into final day | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

Chase for FIA Rally Star African Final prize heads into final day

28.05.22

Fourteen of Africa’s most promising FIA World Rally Championship hopefuls will start the deciding day of the FIA Rally Star African Final tomorrow in contention for one of the most sought-after prizes in motor sport.

Sunday evening, one driver will leave the Zwartkops Raceway near Pretoria, with a place in the FIA Rally Star Training Season in 2023 secured.

But it will take another day of competition in the Pirelli-equipped TN5 Cross Car from Thierry Neuville’s LifeLive organisation, plus a fitness assessment and interview with the five-person jury to decide who can look forward to this life-changing experience.

Twenty-eight drivers set out this morning hoping to make it through to the afternoon stage. Sixteen, including three females, did progress with the stage layout adjusted to include a gravel section and chicane for the second part of the day.

Before the action resumed, the 16 competitors completed a walk of the track in the company of the jury members headed by Robert Reid, the winner of the 2001 FIA World Rally Championship for Co-Drivers and FIA Deputy President for Sport. Title-winning South African rally Guy Botterill driver joined the jury members in his role as driver advisor.

Twelve drivers progressed, including two from the Digital Challenge, to Sunday’s final day when a stage layout measuring approximately 2700 metres in length awaits the qualifiers.

The Jury will decide the number of runs each competitor will need to complete and will take into account these stage performances and performances from earlier in the event, while also considering how well each candidate performs during an interview.

Jury members will also consider the results of a physical assessment, made up of a running session and a reflex test. The decision of the Jury is final and cannot be appealed.

The eventual FIA Rally Star African Final winner will follow the winners of the European and MENA Finals in qualifying for the FIA Rally Star Training Season in 2023.

In addition to six rallies in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally3, the Training Season package includes physical and intellectual assessment, driver coaching and testing. The aim is to equip the successful contestants with the attributes they need as they attempt to secure a drive in the FIA World Rally Championship in the future.

Working under Jury President Robert Reid are members Alexandre Bengué, a former WRC driver, Pirelli’s Alberto Ferloni, Pernilla Solberg, ex-rally driver and mother of WRC rising star Oliver Solberg, plus M-Sport Poland’s Maciej Woda.

WHAT THEY SAID:

Jérôme Roussel, FIA Rally Star Project Leader: “It wasn’t a huge challenge to organize this event, because we had the full support of Motorsport South Africa. They helped us to find this circuit, and we couldn’t have hoped for a better one. It’s a very nice track with high and low-speed corners, mixed-surface with gravel and asphalt and it’s very challenging for the drivers. Thanks to the LifeLive mechanics, the machines work smoothly, so we are happy to be here.

We know there is a big passion for rallying in Africa, we have seen several drivers from multiple countries, and we have seen that they wanted to be the next champion. As today is the start of the qualifying, we have seen thanks to shakedown that have they improved their times laps, the competition is getting closer and that’s a good thing.”

Maciej Woda, Jury member & Managing director of M-Sport Poland: “We are looking for the ideal driver, we are looking for a talented driver, ideally somebody who has never participated in any type of motor sport before but where we can identify a certain speed. Obviously, speed is crucial, in rally but we are searching for someone who is mature, who can focus, who is interested in the sport, and who knows how to improve his performance.

It is interesting to see how many drivers are asking for advice, we can always go to them explain and teach them. But the key is to show that the interest is coming from them, if they are coming to us and asking what do we think about this and how can we improve, this shows that the driver is particularly interested and he is willing to go forward.”

Cristian Bouché, Automovel e Touring Clube de Mocambique, Mozambique ASN: “Rally is not our strength in Mozambique, we only had a few events which were Cross-Country Rally. This is our first exposure to an actual selection event related to rally. This project is amazing, and it has been a big contribution in bringing the rally discipline to countries that aren’t into the sport.”

Prince Nyerere, 24, from Tanzania, Top 14 qualifier: “It’s a great opportunity for young drivers to showcase their talent and I’m very privileged to be here, so a massive thank you to the FIA. I qualified via the #Rallyathome challenge, so it does prove that you don’t need a lot of money to get involved in motorsport. It was a great opportunity to learn from the shakedown yesterday and we continue to learn every day.”

Robyn Isaacs, 25, from South Africa, Top 16 qualifier: “I’m loving this event, this has been a dream come true and I’m so happy that the FIA Rally Star is happening here in South Africa. I was able to gain confidence thanks to the shakedown as I have never driven a car with a clutch, so today it was pedal to the metal! I was always into rallying, though only as co-driver and it has been an amazing experience.”