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Max Smart, the 20-year-old motocross rider from Cape Town, is ready to take on the first of the 6 European rallies, the San Marino Rally, which forms part of his reward as the winner of the African Continental final of the FIA Rally Star programme.

It has been a long journey for Max, from participation in the initial MasterDrive and ATK backed, Motorsport South Africa, FIA Rally Star challenges which were held around the country in late 2021 and in 2022, via a national final, to select MSA’s representatives for the continental final hosted by MSA at Zwartkops, where he held out to win the coveted position as Africa’s finalist in this prestigous competition.

This in turn took him last month to join the remaining 5 Rally Star continental finalists in Sardinia at the FIA Rally Star Training Camp, organised by the FIA and the programme’s partners, where a team of rally industry experts provided crucial advice and guidance to Max and his codriver, along with the other crews.

As part of an intensive programme, Max enjoyed training in pace note preparation, car setup, press and TV media interviews and social media best practices. The training camp included various physical and mental assessments as well as the opportunity to test the Pirelli equipped MSport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally 3 which Max will be driving on the 6 national level rallies in Europe which form part of this training season.

Following the training camp, Max completed the recce for Rally Italia Sardegna, at the same time as the WRC heroes he hopes one day to emulate, before observing and taking in as much as possible on the event itself.

Max and experienced Irish co-driver Lorcan Moore then made use of the intervening time, before travelling back to Italy for the San Marino Rally, honing their recce and pace note making skills as a team on the winding back-roads of Ireland and watching videos from past San Marino events to learn as much of the conditions they can anticipate encountering this weekend.

Wednesday was spent testing the MSport Fiesta Rally 3 ahead of the event which starts tomorrow (Friday 16 June) while today will be spent on recce ahead of the rally. Max was thrilled with getting to grips with his new mount saying, “The test was awesome, wet, slippery and rocky, but totally awesome! I can’t wait to take the start on Friday.”

The San Marino Rally, which will be held on gravel, is the first of 6 events this year in which Max and the other FIA Rally Star finalists will participate, the remainder being Rally Weiz in Austria and Rally Nova Gorica in Slovenia (both on tarmac), before the attention turns back to the gravel for the remaining 3 rallies, Rally Saaremaa in Estonia, Rally RACC in Spain and the Lausitz Rally in Germany.

Max’s objective during this programme is to be one of the 4 FIA Rally Star Finalists to be selected to undertake a Junior WRC season in 2024.

Max proudly shows off the flag ahead of testing.

Published by: Steve Harding

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