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20.03.2022

Twelve FIA Rally Star talents all set for Yas Marina deciding day

Twelve drivers, including one female, have qualified for the final day of FIA Rally Star Middle East and North African Final in Abu Dhabi following a super Saturday of action at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Middle East & North Africa Continental Finals
FIA Rally Star talents all set for Yas Marina deciding day

Twenty drivers representing eight countries set out this morning with high hopes of progressing to Sunday’s deciding stage and the opportunity to challenge for a place in the FIA Rally Star Training Season in 2023.

Following Friday’s shakedown, the drivers were split into four groups for five to tackle two runs of a 1.0-kilometre stage purpose built within the state-of-the-art Yas Marina Circuit complex.

However, before taking to the Pirelli-equipped, 115-horsepower TN5 Cross Car from FIA World Rally Championship ace Thierry Neuville’s LifeLive organisation, the 20 drivers were accompanied on a walk through the stage by Patrik Halberg. The Swede was selected as the FIA Rally Star European Final reserve driver and was on hand to give advice to the FIA Rally Star MENA Final contenders.

With the fastest two drivers from each group plus the next two fastest drivers regardless of their group – in addition to the best two from the Digital Challenge – progressing to Sunday’s final, the competition was intense.

But as well as doing their best to go as quickly as possible on the gravel stage, the 20 young talents – several of whom had never driven a Cross Car prior to the FIA Rally Star MENA Final – were also mindful of the need to showcase their skills to the five-person jury. Headed by former driver Pernilla Solberg, the jury included M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s WRC stage winner Gus Greensmith, Pirelli Rally Activity Manager Terenzio Testoni, French racing driver turned karting coach David Terrien and M-Sport Poland head Maciej Woda.

In high ambient and ground temperatures, the following 12 qualified drivers for the final with the remaining eight gaining crucial experience for the future:

The 12 finalists are:

Mutasim Al Balushi (Oman)

Mueen Al Balushi (Oman)

Nofel Al Balushi (Oman)

Anmar Al Bulushi (Oman)

Bashar Al-Qassimi (Oman)

Sultan Alsahlawi (UAE)

Moath Alshishani (Jordan)

Abdullah Masoud Altawqi (Oman)

Amjad Mismar (Jordan)

Anthony Dagher (Lebanon)

Rhea Dagher (Lebanon)

George Polykarpou (Cyprus)

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.

Royal Automobile Club of Jordan representative Izz Bustami said: “FIA Rally Star has been created for the next generation and it’s crucial to start working with them now. Our drivers aren’t really experienced, so we tried to push them through sim-racing because it is the most efficient way to get into the world of motor sport. We are pleased to be here in Abu Dhabi for Middle East and North African Final as it gathers young drivers and gives them a chance to step into the world of auto racing.”

Oman Automobile Association representative Masud Ali Al-Hinai said: “A big thank you to the FIA and Rally Star for giving us the opportunity to be part of this amazing event. During our detection programme, we organised a Slalom and a Digital Challenge. We tried to prepare our drivers the best way so they could be ready to compete in this competition.

We hope that one of our drivers will be able to win this final, but most of our participants are very young, some of them haven’t even driven a car yet. They hope that this experience will be useful for their future and aspire to a career in motor sport.”