Rally Star - Jürgenson is the top FIA Rally Star while smart shows spanish potential


A first Rally3 category victory on gravel for Romet Jürgenson and a personal best result for Max Smart were the highlights of the penultimate FIA Rally Star Training Season event on RallyRACC in Spain (October 20-21).

Abdullah Al-Tawqi, Taylor Gill and Annia Cilloniz also reached the finish of the gravel rally in that order. But there was frustration for Jose ‘Abito’ Caparo, who crashed out on the penultimate stage, albeit without injury to either he nor co-driver ‘Willy’ Guillermo Sierra Ovalle.
With FIA Vice-Presidents for Sport Europe Anna Nordkvist and Manuel Aviñó in attendance, and FIA world championship-winning co-driver Chris Patterson providing an additional supporting role, all six FIA Rally Star drivers stepped up their level from the previous event in Estonia.
However, 23-year-old Jürgenson was particularly impressive. He was fastest in his class on eight stages out of nine and set the joint third fastest outright time on the asphalt-based street stage in Salou, where FIA World Rally Championship drivers have been tested in the past. Co-driven by fellow Estonian Siim Oja, Jürgenson finished eighth in the overall classification aboard his M-Sport Poland-run Ford Fiesta Rally3.
While the previous FIA Rally Star Training Season event, the Saaremaa Rally, took place against a backdrop of wind and rain, it was warm and dry on RallyRACC throughout. That gave the FIA Rally Star drivers the chance to sample Pirelli’s hard-compound K4 tyre on the nine-stage route. They could also use the medium-compound K6 version but were limited to 10 tyres during the event, which covered 123.39 competitive kilometres.
The stable stage conditions allowed the FIA Rally Star drivers to work on fine-tuning car set-up, more important experience for the future.
RallyRACC, which hosted Spain’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship as recently as 2022, was the third of four gravel events and the fifth in total to be included on the FIA Rally Star Training Season schedule.
With just the loose-surface Lausitz Rallye in Germany left (November 9-11), the challenging stages in the hills above the Costa Daurada provided one of two remaining opportunities for the FIA Rally Star drivers to further demonstrate their progression and potential.
Of the six FIA Rally Star drivers, the best-performing quartet during the Training Season will graduate to the FIA Junior WRC Championship in 2024 when all costs covered by the FIA.
To be included in the FIA Rally Star Training Season, the young talents had to reach and then win their respective Continental Final via selection events organised by their ASNs or through online competitions as part of the FIA’s objective to increase motor sport participation globally. 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.
For RallyRACC, the FIA Road Sport Department, which manages the FIA Rally Star programme, received significant support and guidance from Real Federación Española de Automovilismo (RFEdA) and the Real Automóvil Club de Catalunya (RACC).

FIA Rally Star Project Leader Jérôme Roussel said: Overall it was a positive weekend and fantastic to be part of a big, iconic event. Being in Salou and using the same service park and podium as the WRC event last year was a real asset, as were the stages. The organisation was very good and we thank RFEdA and RACC for their support but also for their keen interest and enthusiasm. It was great to have Anna Nordkvist with us for the second event running so she could truly assess the progression the young drivers are making. We were also very pleased to show Manuel Aviñó the FIA Rally Star programme in action. All drivers were all able to step up their level and the conditions were certainly easier than in Estonia because it was dry all weekend. But we made a point before the start that just because the conditions are easier, it doesn’t mean the rally is any easier. We would have had six cars at the finish again had Abito not crashed out one stage before the end. It was disappointing for him, but that’s part of the learning process, and I prefer he crashes out eight kilometres from the end than eight kilometres from the start, because he got some good experience. As a rally driver he needs to push to show his level. Mistakes happen and it was actually his first mistake that ended up in a retirement. It is part of the learning process, especially when we know that he started as a rally driver six months ago.

FIA Rally Star RallyRACC driver-by-driver round-up (listed in seeded order)

#17 Romet Jürgenson (23, Estonia) Co-driver: Siim Oja (EST)
An almost perfect performance from Jürgenson who cemented his potential on loose-surface stages by claiming his first Rally3 category win on gravel to go with his successes on Tarmac. Setting the joint third fastest time on the Salou street stage ahead of several drivers in Rally2 cars was one of many highlights.

Romet JürgensonThe rally went really well, no issues with the car, no issues with myself and Siim, and we delivered, we’re really happy. We won our class and it’s a nice story at the end because we didn’t have a result yet on gravel so it’s good to get a result on this surface as well as on Tarmac. We showed pace throughout the event, it was not only one stage but a consistent pace throughout the rally and that’s what I’m most happy about. I was spectating here in 2019 and was one day dreaming to be driving these great roads. They were really fast, rocky and abrasive so a lot of new stuff to learn, but learning pays dividends in the end. When you are given such an amazing opportunity like FIA Rally Star, for sure you have to cope with pressure, it’s inevitable. We dealt with the pressure quite well."

#18 Taylor Gill (19, Australia) Co-driver: Daniel Brkic (AUS)
Gill’s hopes of repeating his San Marino Rally and Saaremaa Rally results of first among the FIA Rally Star drivers were dashed when an off on the opening stage left his Fiesta Rally3 with a bent steering arm. He lost 1m30s and dropped further time by having to nurse the damage through SS2.

Taylor GillWe weren’t able to put together that great a performance this weekend so it’s hard to be satisfied with the result. But I learned a lot, particularly about the two types of tyre compounds and what is the best compound for the conditions. I’m expecting the Lausitz Rallye will be similar to the Saaremaa Rally with rain and colder temperatures. We need to improve our speed in these conditions but also on high-speed stages where there are big ruts in order to be on Romet’s pace. Our speed and potential were lacking this weekend so we need to show both again.

#19 Jose ‘Abito’ Caparo (26, Peru) Co-driver: ‘Willy’ Guillermo Sierra Ovalle (PER)
Despite losing time with a power steering issue on Saturday morning and catching a slower car on SS4, Caparo was second among the FIA Rally Star drivers – following an impressive performance – when he crashed out nearing the finish of the rally’s penultimate stage. Both crew members were given the all-clear following precautionary checks in hospital.

Jose ‘Abito’ Caparo: I feel very good about my performance because we were doing a very good rally with no mistakes before the crash. The speed and the pacenotes were good and we had a very good understanding inside the car. I didn’t realise during the recce that our speed for the corner where we crashed would be faster than I thought. So we went a little wide on the first turn, hit a rock and that rock put us out of the road and there was a drop into a field. We did two rolls and ended upside down. We will avoid this in the future with more precision on the pacenotes. But it’s one of the things we have to learn. I improved a lot and we were very focused. We will come back stronger for the Lausitz Rallye.

#20 Abdullah Al-Tawqi (24, Oman) Co-driver: Ronan Comerford (IRL)
With FIA world championship-winning co-driver Chris Patterson providing pacenote guidance and FIA WRC2 frontrunner Gus Greensmith offering driving tips, Al-Tawqi’s extensive pre-event preparations translated into another strong, error-free performance. He was able to lower the gap to Romet Jürgenson to under two seconds per kilometre on certain stages. Unfortunately, an overheating issue forced him to complete the final two runs in road mode.

Abdullah Al-Tawqi: "I feel my performance was a step up on this rally, I was able to trust the pacenotes and trust the car. We worked hard in the recce and did a good job with the pacenotes and also the car set-up. My goal was to finish and I was happy with my result but also happy that I could improve my pacenotes and driving style. The stages of RallyRACC were quite short but the total kilometres were long so we were learning and improving on each stage."

#21 Max Smart (20, South Africa) Co-driver: Cameron Fair (GBR)
This was Smart’s best performance to date and came on the back of his second successive outing free of mistakes. Having turned 21 the day after the finish, the ex-motocross rider’s progression and potential were clear.

Max Smart“I’m happy with my performance and second among the FIA Rally Star drivers is really good for me. We’ve been working very hard on our consistency, we feel we have that now and this rally was a chance to work on our pace. We improved on every stage and Cam [Fair] was giving me some really good tips on braking, turn-in an exit of corners. I also got some really good advice on tyres from Nicolas Klinger, who is part of the FIA Rally Star team. I felt I was able to put all of that together and could gain important experience by keeping it clean. We’ve still got a lot to work on before the Lausitz Rallye but I will use everything I have learned on RallyRACC, as it’s my last chance to try to get a seat in the FIA Junior WRC Championship next year.”

#22 Annia Cilloniz (24, Peru) Co-driver: Esther Gutierrez (ESP)
From being five seconds per kilometre from the pacesetting category time on the Saaremaa Rally, Cilloniz was able to reduce that deficit to under three seconds on some of RallyRACC’s repeated stages.

Annia Cilloniz: It was a very good rally and the first rally with no problems at all. I enjoyed it a lot, proper rally stages and the first time with a normal climate. The stages were tricky and technical, not easy at all. We were able to gain confidence since the test but we still have a lot to improve and a lot of room to push. I would say I improved the most with the confidence and the speed in the corners. I still feel there is more in the pocket, though, but I am still in the learning process.

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.

Media info
Imagery of FIA Rally Star participants on RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada (rights-free for editorial usage) can be downloaded via the following links: photos / videos. Media requests can be sent to: rallystar@fia.com.