Rallying, indeed motorsport, is an expensive game. When some of the World Rally Championship’s top drivers struggle to make budgets work, it’s a wonder how any young driver can piece together the financial puzzle to climb rallying’s ladder.
Finally, with FIA’s Rally Star initiative it looks like the most skilled 17-26 year olds have a platform to reach WRC without requiring a huge investment.
Motorsport Ireland has released details of its involvement in the programme which utilises both virtual rallying and real-life driving challenges. A digital challenge and a slalom challenge run as two parallel routes to Motorsport Ireland’s selection for the Continental Finals.
Into gaming and don’t have easy access to real-life rallying? This is the route for you. There are two steps to this before you could represent Ireland in the Continental Finals.
Step 1: WRC 9 #RallyAtHome
The #RallyAtHome challenges can be entered on your Playstation, Xbox, or PC using a 10 euro downloadable pack on WRC 9. The 12-round WRC 9 series has already started but it’s not too late to join in.
The Irish top 10 from each of the remaining FIA Rally Star WRC9 #RallyAtHome challenges will qualify for the Motorsport Ireland Rally Star National Digital Final which takes place in September.
It is also possible for an Irish participant taking part in a #RallyAtHome challenge to qualify directly for the Continental Final by topping a global leaderboard in any of the challenges.
More information on this can be found here.
Step 2: National Digital Final
September’s National Digital Final runs in association with Irish sim specialists, Digital Motorsports. There will be a maximum of 60 finalists who qualify by placing in the top 10 of the final six #RallyAtHome challenges. The winner of the National Digital Final will go onto the Continental Finals competing against the best from other countries behind the wheel of a LifeLive TN5 Cross Car.
Step 3: National Slalom Final
It is envisioned that each of Motorsport Ireland’s 34 affiliated clubs will have the opportunity to nominate two young talents for the slalom challenge. These two candidates, one male and one female, will compete against their peers from other MI clubs using a production car at the event in September.
The exact details of this event are yet to be released by Motorsport Ireland as the date and venue is still to be confirmed.
Just like in the National Digital Final, successful drivers in the Slalom Final will go on to represent Ireland in the Continental Finals scheduled for early 2022.
To be honest, this is where it gets really exciting.
The winner of each Continental Final will be selected to join the FIA Rally Star team. There is also an initiative to select the best female driver to seal her place in the FIA Rally Star team.
These drivers will benefit from a full season of training: driving coaching, physical and mental training, testing sessions and participation in six rallies at the wheel of M-Sport Poland’s Ford Fiesta Rally3.
At the end of the 2022 season, four drivers will be selected to compete in Junior WRC. This will be a season to learn, but also to convince, as three drivers will be selected for a second Junior WRC campaign. This time, the goal will be to win the title and with it a season in WRC 2 driving a Rally2 car.
“Rally Star provides a tremendous opportunity for aspiring rally talents,” said Art McCarrick, Motorsport Ireland Sport Executive,” regardless of their background and I’ve no doubt this process will unearth a few gems.
“Irish motorsport talent is viewed in high regard across the globe and I’m sure that those selected through this process will be extremely competitive in the continental finals.
“Digital Motorsports is a valued partner and we would not be able to run a Rally Star National Digital Final without them.”