The FIA Rally Star talent search initiative will use the upcoming WRC 9 video game to identify prospects for its new Rally Star program, from which four winners will earn a funded seat for a future Junior WRC season.
Rally Star was unveiled earlier this year as a new grassroots program for 17-26 year olds, using a mixture of ‘motorkhana’ – a slalom course driven in a standard production vehicle – and digital competition.
Next month’s WRC 9 release has now been confirmed as the video game which will host the virtual portion of the talent search, with an unspecified Rally3 vehicle being added to the game as a DLC specifically for the competition.
Jérôme Roussel, the FIA’s regional rally category manager, is also in charge of the Rally Star program and emphasised that Esports was being used to reach as wide a range of people as possible.
“The success of such a program relies on one thing. If we want to spot the talent, we need to create the biggest possible sample size,” Roussel told DirtFish.
“For that, digital is the perfect base, because it’s much easier to set up a simulator. Two weeks ago I built my own sim rig and it’s not so hard.
“So for enthusiasts who may not have the money to start to drive at a competitive level, it’s a good starting point.”
Up to 15 drivers can be selected by national motorsport federations (ASNs) to be put forward for a series of continental finals, one in each FIA region, which will utilize FIA-homologated CrossCars to decide which drivers progress to the final shootout for the Junior WRC drives.
Of those 15, up to eight can be selected from the digital motorsport component of the search, with a further six slots available for best performers in the motorkhana tests in each country.
The final bonus slot can be used by ASNs that already have a suitable junior championship in place that they wish to nominate the winner of for the Rally Star program.
However, outright speed will not decide the winners of the WRC 9 component of the talent search, with the FIA urging ASNs to select candidates based on more than the timing boards in-game.
“The target is not to choose the driver who is fastest with the game. We are not looking for a kind of monkey, a guy who is able to repeat, repeat, repeat to ultimately be the fastest,” said Roussel.
“Even if it’s not so easy, if I’m doing this during four days and nights, I will never be the fastest, so you need some skills to succeed.
“But we just want to make sure that the guys we are selecting are not only pure gamers that will have no potential in real [life rallies]. In the end the ultimate target is to find people who have talent.”
WRC 9’s Rally3 DLC will be released in December, with the initial qualification phase of Rally Star beginning in early 2021.
The four drivers who succeed in the final Rally Star shootout for Junior WRC places will then have two seasons to try and win the Junior WRC title, with a full-season prize drive in WRC3 on offer for any Rally Star graduate who can clinch the championship crown.