UK FIA Rally Star hopefuls head to Germany for Continental Final
Four British drivers will spearhead the hopes of the nation as FIA Rally Star reaches its next crucial stage with the Continental Final to be held in Buxtehude, Germany this weekend.
Representing the United Kingdom in the FIA’s global talent detection programme to unearth the next rising stars within the discipline will be Katie Milner, Rob Wilson, wildcard entry George Lepley and #RallyAtHome winner John Bebnowicz-Harris. The quartet will feature in the field of 89 hopefuls.
All four were selected after a hard-fought National Final at Motorsport UK’s Bicester headquarters in October 2021, in which their car control, fitness and media skills – each a key element in competing professionally at the highest level – were put to the test by an expert judging panel.
The prize at stake during the next stage of the competition is a spot in the FIA Rally Star Training Season, including six practice rallies in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally3, physical and intellectual assessment, driver coaching and a testing programme, before the four most promising athletes progress to full-time drives in the 2023 Junior World Rally Championship.
But first, three days of intense competition await them at the Estering rallycross circuit, situated southwest of Hamburg in northern Germany. Drivers will compete on five stages of increasing length, with the top performers at each point progressing to the next.
The Digital Challenge will also offer those unsuccessful at the first attempt an opportunity to continue in the competition, with a modified version of Nacon’s WRC 9 game utilised.
The five-person judging panel will be comprised of Robert Reid, FIA Vice-President for Sport and 2001 World Rally Champion co-driver, 15-time WRC winner Thierry Neuville, class-winning rally driver Pernilla Solberg, Pirelli’s Rally Activity Manager Terenzio Testoni and Malcolm Wilson MBE, Managing Director of M-Sport.
Rob Wilson said: “The Rally Star European Final represents the greatest opportunity in high-level rallying to date. I am prepared and optimistic for the final. I cannot wait to get going.”
Katie Milner said: “I’m really looking forward to the finals this weekend in Germany, it’s a whole new challenge for me as a driver and so far, I’ve absolutely loved it! It’s awesome to be representing the UK and I would like to thank Motorsport UK for the opportunity.”
George Lepley said: “I am super excited for the FIA Rally Star final this weekend. It is a great opportunity for me as this initiative gives someone the chance to climb all the way up to the WRC, which has been my lifetime dream! It’s an honour to be selected as the UK Wildcard entry. It will certainly not be easy as there is a lot of experience between all the competition, but I feel well prepared and ready to give it my best shot.”
John Bebnowicz-Harris said: “Going into the Rally Star final, I feel hopeful in that my development from where I started a few months ago has been massive. I hope my efforts to transfer my sim racing skills across to real cars will pay off. In any case, it will be a blast to drive the LifeLive cars and to visit Estering, which has been a part of many fond sim racing memories.
“The support Motorsport UK has provided me in driving opportunities, fitness coaching and generally inspiring confidence in myself has been exemplary. The friendliness and expertise of their staff is something I have seldom seen before.
“Regardless of what happens in the coming days, I will be proud of my progress and encouraged that this is only the start of my journey. The Rally Star initiative was born out of a curiosity to find untested talent and underdeveloped potential to train in the coming years. I represent part of that pool of talent, so I cannot thank the FIA enough for exploring this path and wish that this endeavour succeeds in creating a new path into motorsports.”
Further information on FIA Rally Star is available here.