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The incredible journey of the FIA Rally Star drivers with us

From the sim to the victory in a World Rally Championship event. This is the incredible journey made possible by the FIA Rally Star programme, launched to find the new talents in rallying, allowing those who would not have had the financial means to emerge. When Estonia’s Romet Jürgenson and Australia’s Taylor Gill finished first and second in the Croatia Rally, valid for the Junior WRC championship, the project created by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile exceeded any expectation.

The adventure began in 2021, with more than 100 selection events organised in 50 countries for boys and girls aged between 17 and 26 eager to show off their skills behind the wheel. From the initial 6700 candidates, assessed through simulator and slalom tests, step by step an experts’ panel picked the four names that are now participating in the FIA Junior WRC at the wheel of Rally3 cars.

After a positive start to the 2024 season on the Rally Sweden’s snow, the second round took place on the demanding tarmac special stages in Croatia. The challenge was also brilliantly tackled by Peru’s Jose ‘Abito’ Caparó and South Africa’s Max Smart, who finished sixth and seventh. While Jürgenson and Gill already had previous racing outings, Max and Jose never competed in a rally until June 2023. Their growth, therefore, is equally impressive.

The OMP and Bell Racing brands actively supported the FIA Rally Star programme from the start, by supplying racewear and helmets to protect the aspiring drivers admitted to the 2022 Continental Finals in Germany, UAE, South Africa, India and Italy. For Racing Force Group, it was a big commitment, in terms of production and logistics, but crucial in supporting fresh talent and nurturing the passion for motorsport. “We had over 90 applicants who had no equipment at all, we needed a large supply of racewear and helmets. OMP and Bell provided all the sets in all possible sizes. We were looking for entry level material, but with features already for professionals. However, the products alone are not enough. I think it is also very important to emphasise the quality of service from OMP and Bell Racing, their ability to react to requests and to deliver quickly“, says Jérôme Roussel, FIA Rally Star Project Leader.

In 2023, six drivers were selected for the Training Season, tackling six rallies in Europe to gain experience. “For this step we had an upgrade, with more advanced products, including the Zeronoise sound systems and all the equipment for the co-drivers. There is one thing I remember very well, from the first training camp in Sardinia one year ago. For the drivers, receiving the custom-made kits, and then wearing their suits and helmets, was a very special moment, perhaps even more so than getting into the car. The delivery of all those boxes really meant the beginning of something, it was very symbolic,” Roussel continues.

Romet, Taylor, Max and Jose now use custom suits from OMP’s ONE-S line, combined with fireproof gloves, shoes and underwear. The helmet model supplied by Bell Racing is the MAG-10 Rally, paired with the Zeronoise communication system. These products are designed to combine performance and comfort with the strictest safety standards, for the drivers as well as their co-drivers Siim Oja, Daniel Brkic, Cameron Fair and Esther Gutiérrez.

“Now the guys are becoming closer to real pro drivers, and I hope that in the coming years they will be able to return the support of our partners, for example in developing the new Wired-Wireless system from Bell Racing and Zeronoise”, Jérôme anticipates

Racing Spirit, another brand of Racing Force Group, meanwhile provides the teamwear for all the FIA Rally Star operational staff, with garments suitable for all weather conditions. “Teamwear is crucial, because in addition to comfort on the race venue, it helps us to boost the professional image of the programme. And this is exactly what we always hear from the outside. It’s great that we have all built such a story together”.

The next round on the 2024 Junior WRC calendar will be the Rally Italia Sardegna. The rising stars of the FIA Rally Star programme are willing to impress on gravel too. After such a start, do expectations change? “I think the goals can become more ambitious, but the right approach is to remain humble. You cannot believe that you will always win now. You have to respect the competition and the rivals, without leaving anything to chance. The desired results will not always come, as there are many factors at play, but you have to keep the same attitude”, Roussel insists. “In sport nothing is assured, and we must continue to see ourselves as the outsiders, not the favourites. Reaching the top is tough, but it is even tougher to remain there. We share this philosophy with the drivers. They are aware that in order to succeed they must work harder than the others. If they do that, I am sure they can achieve”.

Stories of races, drivers, and passion.