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  • Writer's pictureDrew Bentham

FIA Rally Star crews kick of 2024 in Sweden this weekend

FIA Rally Star crews kick off at Rally Sweden

The FIA Junior World Rally Championship kicks off this week at Rally Sweden (15-18 February 2024), the first of five that make up the season. Among the 19 junior crews entered, four will represent the FIA Rally Star program, an innovative initiative launched by the FIA in 2020 to detect and train the future stars of the sport. Itself an evolution of the original Pirelli Rally Star program.

FIA Rally Star crews were meticulously selected through a rigorous process that included online and on-event competitions organized by FIA member clubs and the WRC9 video game. The winners of the six Continental and Women's Finals then participated last year in a Training Season established by the FIA and its partners. This season comprised an intensive training camp in Sardinia, followed by participation in six rallies on gravel and tarmac.

The four crews entered in the 2024 FIA Junior WRC Championship are:

  • Romet Jürgenson (Estonia)/Siim Oja (Estonia). The winner of the European final arrives well-prepared, having participated earlier in January in Rally Alūksne in Estonia, at the wheel of a Fiesta Rally3, thanks to the support of his personal sponsors. On this occasion, he set his first two overall fastest times.

  • Taylor Gill (Australia)/Dan Brkic (Australia). After returning home to take part in the final round of the Australian Championship, the winner of the Asia-Pacific final and his co-driver are now back in Europe, having enjoyed a test session in Finland with a Fiesta Rally3.

  • Max Smart (South Africa)/Cameron Fair (Great Britain). The winner of the African final literally discovered the snow during his preparation for the event, which began in the driving school of Per-Gunnar Andersson, two-time Junior WRC Champion.

  • Jose 'Abito' Caparó (Peru)/Esther Gutierrez (Spain). The winner of the American final teams up with a new female co-driver, well known since Esther was at the side of Annia Cilloniz in 2023.

All four drivers benefited from specific preparation for driving on ice, first on production cars on the tracks of SnowRallyRings, with Alexandre Bengué and Jani Paasonen as instructors. They then took the wheel of the Fiesta Rally3 EVO at the John Haugland Winter Rally School. Rally Sweden is a classic event of the WRC calendar, known for its fast and flowing stages on snow and ice, with the iconic snowbanks lining the roads. The rally is based in Umeå, and covers 18 stages over four days, for a total of 300.10 km of competitive distance.

The FIA Rally Star crews will face a tough challenge, as they will have to adapt to the demanding conditions of the Swedish fixture, while competing against experienced rivals from all over the world. The Junior WRC line-up is one of the strongest in recent years, with drivers from 16 different countries and five continents, representing the diversity of the rally community. The four FIA Rally Star crews are competing under strictly identical conditions to the other Junior WRC competitors, driving the same Ford Fiesta Rally3 EVO cars fitted with Pirelli tyres.

Jérôme Roussel, FIA Rally Star project leader, said:

I'm delighted to see our four crews start the FIA Junior World Rally Championship, after serious preparation over the last few weeks. We must bear in mind that three of them will be competing in their very first WRC rally. It's a big step, but they're here because of their talent and we are confident in their ability to learn and progress without jumping the gun. I'm also delighted that the Junior WRC line-up is so strong, as it demonstrates the appeal of the Rally3 category and the excellent work carried out by M-Sport Poland, Pirelli and WRC Promoter in recent years. I'd like to thank SBF, the Swedish ASN, and the organisers of Rally Sweden, first and foremost Anna Nordkvist, for their enthusiastic welcome to their event.

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