A total of 20 drivers, including three females, are taking part with the prize of a place on the FIA Rally Star Training Season in 2023 up for grabs.
Representing 8 countries, the finalists qualified via Digital or Slalom Challenges or as a wildcard nominated by a National Sporting Authority (ASN).
Today’s itinerary provided a number of the finalists with their first taste of the Pirelli-equipped TN5 Cross Car from FIA World Rally Championship driver Thierry Neuville’s LifeLive organisation. The shakedown sessions, held in dusty and windy conditions, were a prelude to the competitive action starting tomorrow (Saturday) on a purpose-built 1.0-kilometre circuit located within the spectacular Yas Marina complex.
The 20 drivers will be split into four groups of five. The top two from each group will go directly to the Sunday final along with the next two fastest drivers regardless of their group.
Drivers eliminated on Saturday can still make it through to Sunday’s decider with two places on offer in the Digital Challenge, which uses a modified version of Nacon’s WRC 9 game.
For the drivers who miss out on a place in the Sunday final, the opportunity to represent their country and build their competition experience will be life changing.
In the event of no women qualifying for Sunday’s action, the Jury, headed up by former rally driver Pernilla Solberg, will decide who will qualify for the all-female Final later this year by taking into account their Saturday performances. The Jury may also consider other criteria or results of various assessments when making their decision.
The FIA Rally Star Middle East and North African Final is the second of six Continental Finals scheduled this year. The results will be used to determine who will join FIA Rally Star European Final winner, Estonia’s Romet Jürgenson, in the inaugural FIA Rally Star Training Season in 2023. Maja Hallén Fellenius (Sweden) and Katie Milner (United Kingdom) have qualified for the Women’s Final as the joint top female performers in the European Final.
At the end of the FIA Rally Star Training Season in 2023, the best four FIA Rally Star Team members are rewarded with 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 are 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, Digital Motorsports, OMP and LifeLive.
FIA Rally Star Project Leader Jérôme Roussel said: “We are delighted to be here in Abu Dhabi at the superb Yas Marina Circuit complex, with the great support of EMSO staff and volunteers. As we knew that most of the drivers had never driven a Cross Car before, we could dedicate this first day to training. We have already seen some interesting profiles emerging and we expect them to tomorrow will allow to continue their development tomorrow.”