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Pirelli Rally Star Africa

 

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Press Releases

PIRELLI STAR DRIVER SCHEME LAUNCHED FOR 2009 SEASON ( 03.04.2009 )

The Pirelli Star Driver scheme has been launched for 2009, following its successful inaugural year during which five talented young drivers from around the world won a drive in a series of six of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship events.

The programme is designed to find rallying’s most talented and promising young drivers from the FIA regional championships in Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. Each of the regional series’ will host a Shoot-Out competition as a finale to the qualification process, with the successful five drivers (one from Africa, Asia Pacific and the Middle East, and two from Europe) being awarded a six-event FIA World Rally Championship programme for 2010.

How to become a Pirelli Star Driver?
Qualification for the scheme varies from region to region, but every driver registering has to be aged 27 or younger on 1 January 2009. Registration for the Pirelli Star Driver scheme is free and open to every driver who is a permanent resident of a country affiliated to the FIA. The programme is only open to drivers who have not contested more than three World Rally Championship events in the current or past season. Competitors can use any rally car which qualifies for their FIA regional rally championship.

FIA European Rally Championship qualification
Qualification for one of the two Pirelli Star Driver cars available to the European region is geographically split into two sections. Drivers from northern Europe (Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ireland and the UK) will take part in a gravel event tied to Neste Oil Rally Finland (July 28-August 02). The top five drivers, each being from a different country, will be judged on a number of different criteria including, but not limited to driving performance. They will go forward to the European Shoot-Out.

Drivers from the other European countries will be permitted to enter three qualifying events – all being rounds of the FIA European Rally Championship. Those qualifying events are Rally 1000 Miglia (Italy), Croatia Delta Rally (Croatia) and Bulgaria Rally (Bulgaria).

Five drivers from each of those rallies will be awarded a place in the European Shoot-Out, but only one driver is permitted in the Shoot-Out from any one country.

One competitor from each of the Nacam and Codasur zones in North and Central America will also be invited to contest the European Shoot-Out.

The Shoot-Out final, for a maximum of 23 drivers, will take place on September 26/27 in Freistadt, Austria.

FIA African Rally Championship qualification
Qualification for African drivers is geographically split, north and south. Competitors based in the north will be able to qualify on the Rally of Tanzania and Safari Rally of Kenya, while those in the south have the Zambia International Rally and Zimbabwe Challenge Rally as their qualification events. The top two Pirelli Star Drivers from each of the events will be awarded a place in the African Shoot-Out.

The Shoot-Out final will take place on the Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally (17-19 September).

FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship qualification
Qualification for Asia Pacific drivers is split between the Asia region and the Pacific region. Drivers in the Asian area can qualify from Rally Hokkaido (Japan) and the Malaysian Rally. In addition to those rallies, there will also be competitions held within Indonesia and China. Two drivers will come from each of these events, totalling eight crews from Asia.

Drivers in the Pacific area can qualify from the Rallye de Nouvelle Caledonie, Rally Queensland (Australia) and Rally of Whangarei (New Zealand). Two drivers qualify from each event, making an Asia Pacific Shoot-Out total of 14 drivers.

The Shoot-Out final will take place in association with Rally Australia (1-6 September).

FIA Middle-East Rally Championship qualification
Drivers who reside or have a competition license issued in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and Oman can qualify on the Kuwait International Rally. Drivers who reside or have a competition license issued in Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan or Palestine can qualify on the Syrian International Rally and Rally of Lebanon. Two drivers from each event will go forward to the Shoot-Out.

The Shoot-Out final will take place on the Dubai International Rally (3-5 December).

How to score
On qualifying events in Africa, Asia Pacific and the Middle East, points will be allocated for individual stage times, rather than taking the overall results. This ensures drivers who suffer a problem on one stage are not punished unduly harshly. The winner of each stage will be awarded five points, going down to one point for the fifth fastest time. The drivers who accumulate the most points across all of the stages will gain a place in their respective Shoot-Out.

In the European region separate classifications will initially be drawn up on each qualifying event to recognise the different performance of 2WD and 4WD cars. After awarding points to equalise that difference, an overall classification will identify the top five drivers from each event.

Playing the joker
Additionally, each region has the right to nominate one driver it feels has performed exceptionally, but missed out on qualification. This driver will be fast-tracked into their respective regional Shoot-Out.

 

 

2009 PIRELLI STAR DRIVER - 11.03.2009

The FIA-instigated Pirelli Star Driver programme, the World Rally Championship’s first global young driver development scheme, is underway. Five of the most talented and promising rally drivers in the world began their training and testing in Scotland and Italy last week.

The five drivers, Jarkko Nikara (23, Finland); Martin Semerád (18, Czech Republic); Mark Tapper (28, New Zealand), Nicos Thomas (21, Cyprus) and Jon Williams (26, South Africa), met for the first time in Edinburgh on Monday (2 March) where they - and their co-drivers - were put through the first stage of an intensive training regime, devised by 2001 FIA World Rally Champion co-driver Robert Reid. On Thursday evening (5 March), the new team of young hopefuls flew from Edinburgh to Pisa in northern Italy, where they met Ralliart Italia, the team which will run the five Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Xs they will drive on six rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship this season.

The training
The drivers arrived in Edinburgh last Monday afternoon for a team-building session. This was the first time all five drivers and four of the co-drivers (Nicos Thomas’s co-driver Stéphane Prévot was unable to attend the session) had met since they won their respective nominations.

The training was run in the style of a round of the FIA World Rally Championship, with Monday evening taking the roll of the ceremonial start; two full days followed with the session concluding on Thursday at 15:00 hrs, close to the time most WRC rounds cross the finish ramp. The training work was carried out by private company, Elite Sports Performance.

Tuesday was focused on discovering levels of fitness among the group and working on preventing injury, first aid and incident management. Wednesday was partly media-driven and partly a continuation of the physical conditioning. The day started early, however, with an early morning run up Arthur’s Seat – a well-known hill close to the Scottish Parliament buildings in the capital city. After working through interview techniques and presentations, the team moved into the heat chamber, where the problems of dehydration were graphically demonstrated. With the temperature set at 40oC and rising humidity, the drivers and co-drivers completed a 45-minute exercise programme. Before and after this, they completed a series of concentration tests. The results demonstrated an average weight loss of one kilogramme and a 20 per cent downturn in concentration performance.

Thursday morning concluded the session with muscle endurance work, sponsorship and the commercial side of rallying and a nutrition workshop. The team departed Edinburgh for the airport at 15:00 hrs.

The test
The team, led by Pirelli Star Driver supervisor Phil Short, were met in Pisa by Ralliart Italia personnel. They transferred to a hotel south of the city, in the town of Fattoria Mocajo, where they saw the cars they would be driving for the first time. Ralliart Italia will provide six Mitsubishis for the programme this season: five rally cars and one spare. For this event, the team also provided a full-specification Lancer Evolution X test car.

After a debrief with the team and Short, the five crews went out to recce the 2.5-kilometre test road. They were permitted two recce runs, in keeping with WRC regulations. After that, the crews then drove 25 kilometres each (10 runs at the stage) on Friday afternoon and the same on Saturday morning. Following the first of their two test sessions, the drivers all went into a debriefing session with the two Ralliart Italia engineers who will accompany the entire programme for this season. The weather was largely dry for the test, although there had been heavy rain in the region in the previous week.

On Sunday morning, Martin Semerád and Nicos Thomas, along with their co-drivers, flew to Milan and on to this week’s Cyprus Rally, the latest round of the FIA World Rally Championship, while the rest of the team flew home. Jon Williams flew back to Britain with his co-driver, where he will remain until after Rally de Portugal.

More learning – but this time with dirty hands
On Saturday afternoon, once the second part of the test was completed, the crews all took part in a workshop on the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. The crews were taken through how to work on the key components on the cars they will drive this season. With limited servicing time permitted on all rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship a solid working knowledge of how to keep their cars mobile under at all times will be vital for the Pirelli Star Drivers this season.

All of the crews showed a good depth of mechanical understanding, with Jon Williams being the only one of the drivers who hadn’t driven or worked on this kind of Group N rally car previously.

Quotes
Robert Reid, ESP co-founder
“The objective was to support the guys in the programme; it’s a great opportunity within the FIA’s official scheme. As far as this three-day session went, we designed it around a round of the World Rally Championship, with long days and high exertion to show the guys how difficult it can be. One of the specific aspects of the programme which worked really well was the heat chamber. Competing on a long rally in the heat, like they will in Greece, will be quite different from what most of them have done before. We demonstrated what was required from them under some fairly extreme conditions here at Edinburgh University. I’m also really pleased with the way the team has gelled so quickly. Apart from their co-drivers, these guys had never met each other before the start of the week, but straight away they’ve all got on together and worked really hard. I think there was a fair bit of anticipation before the start, they didn’t really know what they were in for, but at the end, there’s a real understanding of the value of this aspect of the programme. We will follow this session up with more work, this time in the field, on the rallies in Portugal, Greece and Finland.”

Phil Short, Pirelli Star Driver supervisor
“These guys are pretty well all new to the World Rally Championship and, consequently, have very little experience of life at this level. They’ve learned an awful lot about competing at this level this week. And they haven’t just learned about training in Scotland or testing in Italy, they’ve learned a great deal about themselves. I was very happy with the way the test went, we didn’t have any mechanical problems or anybody going off the road. This first test was about meeting the Ralliart team, getting to know the engineers and feeling comfortable in the car. Everybody did just that. The drivers all used the hard compound Pirelli Scorpion tyre, as they will in Portugal. This was a great opportunity for the guys to sample the tyre in the kind of changeable conditions we’re likely to get in Portugal. This test was a very good way to continue the strong start we made with the training in Edinburgh. I think it’s fair to say everybody’s really looking forward to the first event in Portugal – myself included.”

Jarkko Nikara (Finland)
“I was first in the car, so I have to say, I was a little bit nervous driving like this before all of my new team mates. The engine on the Mitsubishi felt very strong, I was very pleased with the way it went. The one thing which I felt was the anti-lag system was quite strong – when you’re not used to driving a turbo car, this can take some getting used to. The suspension was perfect, the car felt great.”

Martin Semerád (Czech Republic)
“I found the car a little bit unpredictable to start with. I think this could be down to the hard tyre on some fairly damp conditions. I also think it’s partly down to my technique – I need to work on that. But, what a week! It’s been incredible. I had never really done anything like the training we did in Scotland earlier, which was so useful, and then to come out here on the test was great. The cars all look fantastic. It’s going to be a very exciting season.”

Mark Tapper (New Zealand)
“The car worked really well for me. I had to work quite hard to keep it in a straight line under power, but I think that’s probably down to the way I was driving. I need to work on my technique a little bit more; left-foot-braking the car would work better in these conditions. It’s been a great test, though. The training we did with Robert [Reid] and the guys earlier in the week has opened my eyes to a lot. I’d done some of the sports psychology stuff in New Zealand, but not quite in the same detail we went into in Scotland.”

Nicos Thomas (Cyprus)
“The engine feels really strong in the car. It was nice and easy to get into it and drive. I do have some experience with Mitsubishis; I think this would have helped me a little bit. After I have talked to some of the team and the engineers, I think I need to work on the way I drive a little bit, just to get the best out of the car. It’s going to be a fairly busy month for me now, I have to go straight back to Cyprus for the rally next week and then I have the first PSD event in Portugal to look forward to.”

Jon Williams (South Africa)
“Awesome! That’s the only way to describe this week. From the minute I walked into the room and saw Robert Reid standing there, to my last run in the car, it’s been an incredible experience. I’m still pinching myself now. Tell me, am I really here? Is this really happening? The car was fantastic. I’ve never driven a left-hand-drive car in my life, so that’s going to take a bit of getting used to. And, driving a car with a turbocharger is pretty new to me, too. I’ve been used to Super 2000, which is all about revving the engine; I’ve got to get it into my head that I need to shift up the gearbox earlier to make the best use of the Mitsubishi’s power. I feel really comfortable in the car now, though. I think you can probably tell I’m pretty happy with things!”

Media Links:
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2009 PIRELLI STAR DRIVER

04.03.2009

The FIA and Pirelli have joined forces to usher in a new era of World Rally Championship-based young driver competition, with the arrival of the inaugural Pirelli Star Driver programme. The season-long scheme starts with its first official engagement in Scotland this week.

A year ago, the FIA and Pirelli announced an initiative to search for the next generation of World Rally Champions. After an exhaustive season of selection processes, the time has arrived for those would-be superstars from around the world to take centre stage.

Five of the world’s most talented and promising rally talents have arrived in Edinburgh for chapter one of what is certain to be the most exciting season of their young lives. The five drivers, selected last year for the scheme, will start their first competition (Rally de Portugal) next month, but it is in the Scottish capital where the hard work really starts for Jarkko Nikara (23, Finland); Martin Semerád (18, Czech Republic); Mark Tapper (28, New Zealand); Nicos Thomas (21, Cyprus) and Jon Williams (26, South Africa). The first element of the Pirelli Star Driver programme is all about training and testing.

The week ahead
The drivers arrived in Edinburgh on Monday 2 March, having travelled to Scotland from four continents to take part in the first element of this ground-breaking programme. After a brief welcome and introduction, the drivers got straight to work on physical fitness. Wednesday means more fitness and conditioning work before sessions on dealing with the media and career management. Thursday (5 March) is focused on the commercial side of the sport and the importance of nutrition.

The training programme, based at Edinburgh University, is managed by 2001 World Rally Champion co-driver Robert Reid and his company Elite Sports Performance.

With the training complete, the drivers - together with their co-drivers - will then fly to Pisa in Italy, where they will start testing the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Xs they will drive on six rounds of this season’s FIA World Rally Championship.

The year ahead
The WRC events have been carefully selected by the FIA and Pirelli. They offer the perfect blend of fast and technical gravel rallies, along with one of the most challenging asphalt rallies anywhere on the planet. By the end of these six rallies, the five Pirelli Star Drivers will have an exceptional insight into what it takes to make it to the top of the sport.

In between those rallies, there will be further driver development and training programmes as well as promotional activities undertaken for both the FIA and Pirelli.

The Pirelli Star Driver World Rally Championship events:

  • Rally de Portugal (2-5 April)
  • Rally d’Italia-Sardegna (21-24 May)
  • Acropolis Rally of Greece (11-14 June)
  • Rally Finland (30 July - 2 August)
  • Rally de España (1-4 October)
  • Wales Rally GB (22-25 October)

The drivers
Jarkko Nikara (23, Finland)
FIA European Pirelli Star Driver, Jarkko started competing in 2004. Finnish Junior Champion in 2006, he was runner-up in the Finnish Group N Championship a year later.

Martin Semerád (18, Czech Republic)
FIA European Pirelli Star Driver, Martin started competing in 2007. Martin won a round of the Czech Junior Cup in 2007 and two rounds the following year, when he was runner-up in the series.

Mark Tapper (28, New Zealand)
FIA Asia Pacific Pirelli Star Driver, Mark started competing in 2001. New Zealand two-wheel-drive champion in 2007, Mark won five from six rallies to take the title.

Nicos Thomas (21, Cyprus)
FIA Middle East Pirelli Star Driver, Nicos started competing in 2006. He contested the Cyprus Rally Championship the following year and won the Cyprus Rally in 2008.

Jon Williams (26, South Africa)
FIA African Pirelli Star Driver, Jon started competing in 2003. Jon collected his first outright rally win in the second season of his rally career, he has topped the podium four times since.

The car
The five drivers will be handed the keys to identical Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Xs for the six rallies. This Group N car is a state-of-the-art turbocharged, four-wheel-drive rally car. It is the evolution of the machine used to win last season’s FIA Production Car World Rally Championship. The cars will be built and maintained by Ralliart Italia - with each car arriving at the start of every rally indistinguishable from the four other Pirelli-liveried Lancers.

The Pirelli Star Driver programme - background
When the FIA awarded Pirelli the tender to run the World Rally Championship’s control tyre for 2008, 2009 and 2010, one of the key areas the FIA wanted to work in association with Pirelli on was a global young driver development programme. In its 31-year history, the Drivers’ World Rally Championship has never been won by anybody from outside of Europe. In instigating the Pirelli Star Driver scheme, the FIA is seeking to offer young drivers from across the world an equal opportunity to make it to the top of the sport.

The five Pirelli Star Drivers were selected from four FIA Regional Rally Championships: Africa (Williams), Asia Pacific (Tapper), two from Europe (Nikara and Semerád) and the Middle East (Thomas). The selection process was conducted by each individual FIA region. Included in the FIA European selection process were drivers from the North and Central America (NACAM and Codasur) regions.

FIA World Rally Championship Commission President Morrie Chandler said:
“The Pirelli Star Driver scheme offers a fantastic opportunity for young drivers around the world; on a global basis, it is unprecedented. It will also add another dimension to each of the rallies and I see it as being one of the most eagerly anticipated elements of a fascinating season ahead.”

Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director said:
“Pirelli has always firmly believed in rallying and in motor sport in general, as it gives us a life-sized outdoor test bench. It is our commitment to put something back into the sport even when economic conditions are hard, so naturally we are delighted to wholeheartedly support this initiative to promote deserving young drivers.”

 
 
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