The FIA Rally Star Training Season concludes in Germany (November 10-11), when the Lausitz Rallye provides the final opportunity for six young talents to stake their claim for an FIA Junior WRC Championship prize drive in 2024.
Based on gravel, the 26th running of the Lausitz Rallye is the sixth event on the FIA Rally Star Training Season schedule. It follows on from the San Marino Rally, Rallye Weiz, Rally Nova Gorica, Saaremaa Rally and RallyRACC in giving the FIA Rally Star drivers an incredible opportunity to learn and progress with the full support of motor sport’s world governing body.
To take part in the FIA Rally Star Training Season, the six drivers had to first qualify for their 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 enrolled in the FIA Rally Star Training Season, which began with an intensive Training Camp in Sardinia in late May ahead of the first rally in June.
In order to aid their development and preparation for the future, the FIA Rally Star drivers compete in identical four-wheel-drive Ford Fiesta Rally3s equipped with Pirelli tyres and run by M-Sport Poland, the same package used in the FIA Junior WRC Championship.
Following the Lausitz Rallye, the FIA Rally Star drivers will assemble in Geneva for a final assessment day on November 13. The four drivers who will contest the FIA Junior WRC Championship in 2024 will be revealed later that week.
The FIA Rally Department, which conceived and manages the FIA Rally Star programme, has worked closely with event organiser, Rallye-Renn- & Wassersport Club Lausitz e.V. im ADMV, plus the German ASN, the Deutscher Motor Sport Bund (DMSB), in the build-up to the Lausitz Rallye, which counts as the final round of the 2023 FIA European Rally Trophy.
The challenge in store on the Lausitz Rallye
Eight stages over 138.92 kilometres await the FIA Rally Star drivers on the Lausitz Rallye, which is run out of the Boxberg municipality in the saxony region of eastern Germany. Leg one begins at 15:30 CET on Friday November 10 and features two stages – including one that starts in the dark – over a competitive distance of 42.74 kilometres. The rally resumes on Saturday and consists of six further stages totalling 96.18 kilometres with the finish scheduled for 17:08 that day.
View from the winner by Andreas Mikkelsen
For Andreas Mikkelsen, provisional FIA WRC2 Championship title winner who finished first on last year’s Lausitz Rallye in the all-new Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, the event offers a unique challenge.
The Norwegian Škoda Fabia RS driver said: “The stages are very nice but it rained heavily last year so it was really slippery with a lot of water on the road. But it was quite easy to predict the grip and the stage conditions were quite similar on the second pass. The stages in the forest are quite narrow in some sections, and it’s very easy to hit tree stumps and things like this, so you have to watch out. But some sections were really fast and flowing with a nice rhythm, a lot of junctions and some big crests, so pretty much a bit of everything. The area is quite flat, not a lot of up and down, and you can see more or less everything before you approach a corner. It’s quite a particular rally and hard to compare it to any other event. It’s not so difficult but the stages in the dark last year were not easy in the rain and fog.”
FIA Rally Star latest news and views
Back-to-back gravel events will be to Romet Jürgenson’s liking following his Rally3 category victory on the loose-surface RallyRACC last month. A return to Germany will also reignite fond memories for the Estonian, who won the FIA Rally Star European Final in the country in January 2022.
Taylor Gill has vowed to demonstrate his “speed and potential” that the Australian felt were lacking on RallyRACC, an outing compromised by an early off, which resulted from an uncharacteristic error by the recently turned 20-year-old.
After delivering a second consecutive error-free performance in Spain, Max Smart intends to “use everything I have learned on RallyRACC, as it’s my last chance to try to get a seat in FIA Junior WRC next year”, when the South African contests the Lausitz Rallye.
Annia Cilloniz still believes there is “more in the pocket” after a strong showing from the Peruvian on RallyRACC. 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.
Having been able to lower the gap to Romet Jürgenson to under two seconds per kilometre on certain stages last time out in Spain, Oman’s Abdullah Al-Tawqi hopes his ongoing progression will deliver further improvement in Germany.
Given the all-clear following precautionary checks in hospital after crashing on RallyRACC’s penultimate stage, the Lausitz Rallye will provide the perfect opportunity for Peruvian Jose ‘Abito’ Caparo to rebuild his confidence and build on his impressive performances from earlier in the season.
FIA Rally Star Project Leader Jérôme Roussel said: “The Lausitz Rallye is very much the completion of a truly memorable mission of learning and discovery for six young, talented drivers as the FIA Rally Star Training Season draws to a close. The event is also the final opportunity they will have to demonstrate all the skills and knowledge we have equipped them with since they first gathered as a group at the Training Camp in May. They have all shown a great desire to listen and put into practice all they have been taught. While the incredible FIA Junior WRC prize drive is only for four of them, they will all finish this process as winners in terms of how they have developed as drivers and individuals, but also for what they have achieved. We wish them all well on the Lausitz Rallye and thank Rallye-Renn- & Wassersport Club Lausitz e.V. im ADMV, plus the German ASN, the DMSB, for all their guidance and support.”
Abdullah Al-Tawqi said: “It’s the final FIA Rally Star event and if we consider the conditions of the Lausitz Rallye last year then it will be similar to what we experienced on the Saaremaa Rally with the surface a little bit wet. Of course we need to finish the rally but I also need to improve my confidence and my pacenotes. I also want to continue to build up my knowledge of the car in case there are any issues but, overall, we are focusing to get a podium in the Rally3 category. I was very happy with my result on RallyRACC and also with my times. When I got to the starting line of each stage I focused on reducing the gap in each kilometre and to have a quicker time than on the first pass. I am pleased with what I achieved, and I felt like I could do more and more in the car. I have been watching onboards from the last Lausitz Rallye and have also been practicing my pacenotes using the WRC game on my simulator. I have also been training in the gym for my fitness.”
FIA Rally Star Training Season participants (in Lausitz Rallye start number order)
- Romet Jürgenson (23, Estonia) / Co-driver: Siim Oja (EST)
- Jose ‘Abito’ Caparo (26, Peru) / Co-driver: ‘Willy’ Guillermo Sierra Ovalle (PER)
- Taylor Gill (20, Australia) / Co-driver: Daniel Brkic (AUS)
- Max Smart (21, South Africa) / Co-driver: Cameron Fair (GBR)
- Abdullah Al-Tawqi (24, Oman) / Co-driver: Ronan Comerford (IRL)
- Annia Cilloniz (24, Peru) / Co-driver: 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 Saaremaa, 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.