The Pirelli Star Driver Program: Discover World's Young Rally Talents

Jari-Matti Latvala, 22yo,
2008 Uddeholm Swedish Rally WRC winner

Pirelli and the FIA have launched a comprehensive program to promote young talent in international rallying - the Pirelli Star Driver program. The selection process will take place in four different regions and involve 18 countries, so that five promising youngsters can have the chance to compete on the FIA World Rally Championship next year.

Milan, July 23rd 2008 - Pirelli has always been involved in promoting young drivers in all forms of motorsport, so together with the FIA it has launched a new scheme to bring up young drivers through the ranks all over the world. This is part of a global program that aims to encourage new drivers into the WRC, which sees Pirelli working in perfect harmony with the sport's governing body. The program aims to draw five drivers from four FIA regions: two from Europe and one each from the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Africa.

In brief, each region will host a selection process that will result in a winner (or two in Europe). These winners will get a drive in a Group N or Super 2000 car on six World Rally Championship rounds next year, using a car that is built and run by an experienced team appointed by the program's organizers. Between now and 2009 the identities of these five young drivers will be revealed, drawn from their respective regional championships.

As an example, the European selection process will work in a very simple and straightforward way. During the last weekend of October, Freistadt in Austria will host the selection shoot-out. Each European nation that hosts a WRC or European Rally Championship round will be able to nominate a driver to represent them through their national motorsport federation: this makes a total of 18 nations.

The overall winners will be selected with a view to their all-round performance - irrespective of the car they are driving - in a carefully formulated shoot-out. The drivers have to be aged less than 27 on January 1st 200, while the panel judging them will be made up of well-known former rally stars as well as experts from Pirelli. An interesting element of the selection process will be an interview that each driver will have to give in English, in order to assess his or her communication skills towards the world's media. Further details of the regulations governing the selection process will be made available shortly and given to all the nations participating in the Pirelli Star Driver program.

The budget allocated by Pirelli towards the program will also be used to enhance the public relations campaign for each interested region, help fund personal development, fitness and safety programs and pay for travel and prize funds for the final selection process.

Paul Hembery, Pirelli's Motorsport Director, said: "The 'Pirelli Star Driver' scheme has a double value. On the one hand, it allows young drivers to accelerate the time needed to have the opportunity to show what they can do on the international stage. Equally, it gives us the chance to hold an absolutely equal shoot-out - on neutral territory in front of a respected jury - between young drivers who will be able to show the best of themselves under the ideal circumstances for competition.

This scheme will also increase the presence of young drivers on the WRC, bringing new life to a championship that will see a huge explosion in popularity over the next few years. Pirelli has always firmly believed in rallying and in motorsport in general, as it gives us a life-sized outdoor test bench. So naturally we are delighted to wholeheartedly support this initiative to promote young drivers."

July 2008

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