FIA Rally Star MENA: Altawqi and Zakaria earn shot at Junior WRC in 2024

Ross McGregor
FIA Rally Star 2022, MENA

The Middle East and North African (MENA) leg of the FIA Rally Star program took place on Sunday 20th March 2022 at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit and found two more potential rally heroes of the future.

Omani Abdullah Masoud Altawqi won the overall MENA competition, with Farah Zakaria booking her name into the Women’s World Final in America later this year. Initial selections were conducted through the FIA Rally Star DLC for Kylotonn’s WRC 9 rallying sim back in March 2021.

In February we reported on the European stage of the competition – one of six Continental Finals throughout the year – with Romet Jürgenson emerging as the winner.

Alongside the Estonian, Hallén Fellenius and Katie Milner finished as joint female winners and will join Zakaria and at least four other female competitors in the Women’s Final.

20 MENA candidates were whittled down to 12 on the third day of the competition, where they raced against the clock on a 1km gravel track in 115bhp TN5 Cross Cars – supplied by WRC star Thierry Neuville’s LifeLive business.

FIA Rally Star 2022, MENA
Zakaria receives her trophy. Source: FIA

Following this, the 12 drivers were subject to interviews by the FIA Rally Star judges, including current WRC M-Sport Ford driver Gus Greensmith, former Team Principal of FIA World Rallycross Championship winners PSRX Pernilla Solberg, Pirelli Rally Activity manager Terenzio Testoni, Maciej Woda of M-Sport Poland and former World Karting Champion David Terrien.

Jury Chairwoman Pernilla Solberg explained that it wasn’t just speed that mattered to the judges: “It’s a tough job to be part of the jury because they are good drivers and it’s not easy to make the right decision.

“Speed is the important criterion of course, but with the members, we like to find out what kind of person they are, how they take care of the car, how clean they are.

“Because we need to find a person who can work within a team, with engineers, mechanics and it’s important to see how they communicate. To have all of these criteria is what makes it interesting.”

After physical fitness assessments, 12 became four, and the jury reconvened to select Abdullah Masoud Altawqi and Jordanian Farah Zakaria as victors. Anthony Dagher, from Lebanon, was selected to be the MENA reserve driver.

“I’m very happy to have won the FIA Rally Star,” explained Altawqi.

“We tried the cross cars during the shakedown, it was very hard to drive. I got used to it during the qualifying day and final, the competition was intense, but I finally won!”

FIA Rally Star 2022, MENA
Dagher, Altawqi and Zakaria in blue, surrounded by the judging panel. Source: FIA

Zakaria was also understandably elated: “I’m so happy to have won! It has been a super experience, I would like to congratulate the other competitors that have participated. I’m really looking forward to representing Jordan during the Women’s Final in America.”

The FIA Rally Star’s Continental Finals take place throughout 2022, with the six winners joining the Women’s World Final winner for a year of practical and mental training in 2023, featuring six rallies in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally3.

The prize for the final top four of the worldwide competition is a fully paid drive in the Junior World Rally Championship (JWRC) in 2024. The top three candidates will get a second season in JWRC in 2025, and if any of the three win the championship a full season of WRC2 awaits in 2026.

The next Continental Final – the African Final – is due to take place between the 27th and 29th May, held at the Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria, South Africa.

Image source: FIA

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