Need for speed has arrived for FIA Rally Star crews

This weekend the six crews will take on Estonia's Rally Saaremaa - the target is to finish but also show pace


The need for speed has arrived. It’s time for Estonia. More accurately, it’s time for Saaremaa, an event labelled as legendary by the island’s most famous son Ott Tänak.

Six FIA Rally Star crews move into the second half of their ‘training season’ at this week’s Saaremaa Rally – with speed being the key ingredient on the Baltic roads.

FIA Rally Star project leader Jérôme Roussel outlined expectations when the crews take the start on Friday afternoon.

He said: “After two events on Tarmac, the challenge now is to transfer what they have learned and experienced to gravel. The Saaremaa Rally was selected for the FIA Rally Star training season primarily because of the challenge it offers and the benefit this will bring.

“Once again, the aim for all six is to reach the finish, while also demonstrating their speed and their ability to work with and take on board the knowledge and guidance of the engineers, mechanics and the FIA Rally Star team.”

The spotlight will shine brighter than ever on Saaremaa, with Tänak himself competing this week, and that brings a real opportunity for Estonian Rally Star driver Romet Jürgenson. The 23-year-old won his class on Saaremaa last season and will be looking for more of the same this time around – especially after a stunning overall Rally Nova Gorica podium last time out in his FIA-liveried Ford Fiesta Rally3.

Jürgenson said: “While the result on Rally Nova Gorica has given me a lot of confidence, I still have to think that I don’t have any result yet on gravel after I retired in San Marino.

“So for me, it will be a steady start and then a case of progressively trying to find my speed. Once I find my speed, I will need to keep going in this way but let’s see how fast I can find it. However, I feel confident and it will be good to do this rally because there will be a lot of people coming to watch and a lot of good drivers taking part.”

Talking more about what to expect from Saaremaa, he added: “In terms of speed it’s comparable to Rally Estonia but in terms of characteristics it’s completely different. Mainly it’s more narrow and there are a lot of places where you have these rock fences on both sides of the road. It’s also more straight and there aren’t so many crests like Rally Estonia.

“Because the surface gets quite muddy when it rains it’s even more slippery than the normal gravel you find in Estonia. Usually during the autumn it rains on Saaremaa but last year there was actually no rain at all.”

Of the other Rally Star crews, Abdullah Al-Tawqi will continue to level his gravel learning curve, having only competed on the surface twice. Jose ‘Abito’ Caparo was second of the FIA Fiestas in Slovenia, while Annia Cilloniz also emerged from the previous event with a confidebnce-boosting finish.

Taylor Gill is happy to be back on the dirt after his strong season-opening performance in San Marino, where he was quickest of the Rally Star crews. Max Smart returns to the ‘training season’, having sat out Rally Nova Gorica. He starts with a new co-driver in Cameron Fair.