If you’re 17 and pretty sharp on DiRT, your virtual moment could be about to get real thanks to the FIA’s all-new Rally Star initiative.
World motorsport’s governing body is chasing the next generation of talent to take them from grass roots right through to a possible funded WRC 3 seat.
All 144 national governing bodies are being encouraged to set up initial talent detection schemes for drivers aged from 17-25.
The initial assessment will be made through digital motorsport using simulators and the FIA Rally Star partner video game or through ‘motorkhana’, which is another name for what Ken Block would know as gymkhana (the FIA changing the name on the grounds that gymkhana is more to do with horses in the UK).
Once the ASNs have made their selections, a candidate from each ASN will compete at one of six continental finals organised by the FIA in Europe, Middle East and North Africa, Africa, Asia-Pacific, South America and North America.
Driving SC Cross Cars they will compete for one slot per final for a season of coaching, training, testing and competing. The six final winners – if one of the finals doesn’t end with a female winner, a seventh slot will be made available – will drive on six events through the year.
From there, the top four competitors (and a fifth if the top four doesn’t include a female) will then start a two-year Junior WRC programme. A JWRC win will mean progression to a Rally2 car and a full season in WRC 3.
Funded by the FIA’s Innovation Fund, the FIA Rally Star is scheduled for a mid-June launch at the FIA Sport Conference in Thailand. From then on, national governing bodies will be free to begin their selection process.
FIA president Jean Todt said: “When we talk about the detection of rally drivers, we obviously think of Rallye Jeunes, which enabled the FFSA [French governing body] to identify the potential of Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier with the success that we know.
“Thanks to the support of the FIA’s Innovation Fund, we are embarking on an extremely ambitious and innovative programme, made available to our 144 ASNs for worldwide deployment and amplification.
“FIA Rally Star is a great opportunity for those who dream of becoming rally drivers.”
FIA rally director Yves Matton added: “At a time when the World Rally Championship is exploring new territories, FIA Rally Star will encourage the emergence of a new generation of drivers.
“By using grassroots disciplines such as Digital Motorsport and Motorkhana, we will be able to give many young enthusiasts their chance. The most promising will then benefit from a tailor-made development programme, ultimately enabling them to join the WRC.
“With FIA Rally Star, we hope to find a future World Champion, wherever they are, whoever he or she is.”