The FIA Rally Star Program’s Australian edition has seen another three young individuals take the next step towards a fully funded drive in the Junior FIA World Rally Championship.
With a special Slalom Challenge at Sydney Motorsport Park following the second running of the Digital Challenge at the Accent Benchtops Rally Queensland last month, Nickalas Jande and Ethan Kilbride both won their respective competitions to make it through to the next round.
Kilbride, who won the second Digital leg of the program, posted the fastest FIA Rally Star challenge time on the simulator playing the critically acclaimed WRC9 game during the RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship’s second round in Gympie.
With each participant allowed three chances on the challenge, Kilbride’s first run was third fastest before he improved by more than 20 seconds in his second run to post the unbeatable time – the next fastest being Drew Ridge a further six seconds slower.
It turned out to be a family affair in the Digital Queensland challenge with Kilbride’s sister Holly also securing the fastest time out of the contesting women taking part.
Both Kilbrides now join Reilly Blyth in next year’s National Finals in Melbourne, after the Canberran took out the first leg of the competition last month, with the eventual male and female winner of that event to earn a spot in the Asia-Pacific Continental Finals later next year.
In a thrilling Slalom event, Jande beat 10 other rally hopefuls in an elimination style format where each driver completed multiple runs of a course layout.
The first stage saw participants undergo a one-hour session where they got one reconnaissance lap before two timed laps – the best of which saw them qualify for the next stage.
Like many motorkhanas, khanacrosses and autocrosses, drivers who hit a cone, made a false start or didn't hit their braking zones were given time penalties – making it harder to qualify for the next stage.
The best driver from each group then tackled a modified version of the first stage’s layout – only this time their final score was an accumulation of their two laps times rather than their fastest lap.
Throughout the two times laps, Jande proved too strong for his closest rival in Luke Crozier, going almost three seconds faster in the opening run before taking out the second run by ninth tenths – moving his total lead to three and half seconds.
As the winner of the Slalom challenge, Jande bypasses the National Final for the Digital Winners and gets direct access to the Asia-Pacific Continental Finals later next year.
“It feels pretty exciting to have won it,” Jande said.
“It was a little bit tough because the other guys were pretty talented but I was pretty comfortable.
“Even though I have not done anything like those challenges before, I have had experience driving during track days which certainly helped me.
“It feels pretty special that I will get to do this. I am not into rallying as much as I am circuit, but I thought it was a cool opportunity so I thought I would give it a go and now I am onto the next so it’s exciting.”
The next FIA Rally Star Australian edition challenge will be at the Les Walkden Enterprises Rally Tasmania in Lauceston on Saturday 2 July.