Thu 27 Jan 2022

Can triple ERC champion Kajetanowicz inspire Poland’s FIA Rally Star contenders?

Kajetan Kajetanowicz will hope to inspire six younger compatriots contesting the FIA Rally Star European Final in Germany from today (Friday) until Sunday.

The Polish hero became the first driver to win the FIA European Rally Championship three years running when he completed his title hat-trick in 2017.

Along with Gosia Rdest, Poland’s top female racing driver, Kajetanowicz was recruited by Polish ASN Polski Związek Motorowy as a project ambassador and offered advice to the country’s national selection contestants.

Eighty-nine young talents, including 14 women, from 22 nations will assemble at the Buxtehude rally, near Hamburg, for the FIA Rally Star European Final with the winner given the opportunity to show they have what it takes to compete in the WRC within a single season of competition.

While the majority of the contestants earned the right to represent their country in the FIA Rally Star European Final by excelling in Digital or Slalom Challenges during selection events organised by National Sporting Authorities (ASNs), other finalists came via the online #RallyAtHome Challenges or by being selected as wildcards based on their potential.

The FIA Rally Star European Final is the first of six FIA Rally Star Continental Finals in 2022. Results of the Continental Finals decide six of the seven FIA Rally Star Team members for 2023 with the seventh member coming from an all-female final contested later this year by the best-performing woman in each of the six Continental Finals.

The winner of the FIA Rally Star European Final becomes Europe’s representative in the 2023 FIA Rally Star Training Season. This includes six rallies in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally3, plus physical and intellectual assessment, driver coaching and testing. The aim is to equip the successful contestants with the attributes they need as they attempt to secure a drive in the FIA World Rally Championship in the future.

At the end of 2023, the best four FIA Rally Star Team members earn a season in the FIA Junior WRC Championship in 2024. For 2025, three drivers go forward into a second Junior WRC season. And if one of the FIA Rally Star Team members wins the title, they secure a WRC2 campaign in a Rally2 car for 2026 with a Rally1 drive their next target.

Apart from any initial registration fee to take part in a national selection event, plus travel costs to and from national selections and the Continental Final, all other costs will be covered by the FIA with support from the FIA Innovation Fund together with the FIA Rally Star partners. The partners are M-Sport, Pirelli, the FIA World Rally Championship, Nacon, Thrustmaster, Playseat,, OMP and LifeLive.

Taking into consideration the Training Season in 2023, plus two years in the Junior WRC, that essentially means three seasons of rallying free of charge for three drivers. Furthermore, all FIA Rally Star Team members will benefit considerably in terms of the experience and skills gained in 2023, plus the opportunity to showcase their ability to media outlets and potential sponsors and partners, rally teams and car manufacturers.

The FIA Rally Star European Continental Final is held over three days of intense competition from January 28-30. All elements are held at the Estering rallycross track, which is located southwest of Hamburg in northern Germany.

Day one (Friday January 28): Drivers are split into groups with each driver having one reconnaissance run, plus three timed runs over Stage 1, which will measure approximately 750 metres in length.

Day two (Saturday January 29): The top three in each group after Stage 1 progress to Stage 2. Drivers are allowed to undertake a single reconnaissance run followed by two timed runs of the 2.0-kilometre test.

Digital Challenge offers opportunity to progress
Drivers not progressing after Stage 1 or Stage 2 can register for the Digital Challenge as a means of reaching the next stage of the competition. Candidates finishing in fourth or fifth in each group after Stage 1 or in positions 11 to 20th in the overall classification after Stage 2 can win one of the two remaining spots for day three. A modified version of Nacon’s WRC 9 game will be used for the Digital Challenge.

Day three (Sunday January 30): Stage 3, measuring approximately 3.0 kilometres, is for the fastest two drivers from each group, plus the fastest two drivers not topping their group. They will be joined by the two winners of the Digital Challenge. Each driver has one reconnaissance run plus three timed passes through Stage 3.

Deciding the winner is a carefully considered process
Classifications are published after each stage with the final FIA Rally Star European Final classification based on these results plus other performances such as media interviews conducted during the event. These performances are considered by a five-person Jury, who decide the winner of the FIA Rally Star European Final, plus Europe’s female nominee for the 2023 FIA Rally Star Team. The two winners are announced at the Estering on the evening of Sunday January 30. The FIA Rally Star European Final is closed to spectators, as strict COVID-19 protocol will be followed at the Estering.

A five-person Jury will preside over the FIA Rally Star European Final consisting of:

Robert Reid (President): Winner of the 2001 FIA World Rally Championship for Co-Drivers and newly appointed FIA Deputy President for Sport.

Thierry Neuville (Member): The Belgian has 15 WRC victories to his name and has been runner-up on four occasions. He is the founder of the LifeLive Cross Car company

Pernilla Solberg (Member): An ex-class-winning rally driver, Solberg is the wife of 2003 FIA WRC champion Petter Solberg and mother of WRC driver Oliver Solberg.

Terenzio Testoni (Member): Pirelli’s Rally Activity Manager, Testoni is vastly experienced in working with young drivers and helping to guide their careers.

Malcolm Wilson MBE (Member): A former factory WRC driver, Wilson is the Managing Director of M-Sport, the driving force behind the FIA JWRC Championship.

In addition, former international rally driver Alexandre Bengué will attend the FIA Rally Star European Final as the Driving Advisor.

The 89 FIA Rally Star European Final participants include 20 #RallyAtHome Challenge winners (from a total of 4,147 entrants), 27 who secured their place through a Digital Challenge during a national selection event, 26 who were successful in Slalom Challenge events held by ASNs and 18 who have been selected as wildcards. There are 75 male and 14 female finalists. The 42 national selection events organised by ASNs in 18 countries attracted 1,440 contenders.

Jérôme Roussel, FIA Rally Star Project Leader: “We are delighted to be giving almost 90 drivers an incredible opportunity to showcase their talent and potential in a very competitive environment presided over by our expert Jury, headed by Robert Reid, the FIA Deputy President for Sport. We thank all the ASNs around Europe who arranged selection events and have also demonstrated their further commitment by helping their finalists get to Estering for what is the first of six FIA Rally Star Continental Finals. We would also like to show our appreciation to all those who attempted to qualify via the online #RallyAtHome Challenges. When we created FIA Rally Star with the support of the FIA Innovation Fund, a firm objective was to unearth future WRC champions who previously only dreamed of driving a rally car. More than 5,500 hopefuls tried to reach the FIA Rally Star European Final, which is already an excellent way to measure the success of this vital initiative and gives us every reason to believe the remaining FIA Rally Star Continental Finals will attract a similar level of interest.”

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