For a budding driver who wants to get into motorsport, the FIA Rally Star initiative is arguably the biggest prize currently going in esports. The preliminary qualifiers are taking place right now in the WRC 9 video game, through a series of online time trials, before an in-person driving competition with the fastest virtual competitors takes place.
Then, the top seven will receive a year of training and competing in the new M-Sport Fiesta Rally 3 car, before being whittled down to a top-four who each get a full season in the Junior WRC for 2023. It gets better, as three lucky drivers get a second fully paid-up season in the JWRC in 2024 too, and should one win the title, they receive a season in WRC 3 too. Incredible.
The competition is only open to those aged between 17-26 to find the next young rally ace. But you can play the added content even if, like myself, you are increasingly finding yourself slipping further down the age-group brackets in market research surveys.
To take part you will need a copy of the rather excellent WRC 9 game on either PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series or PC. Then there is the FIA Rally Star DLC priced at $9.99/£7.99/€9.99. Finally, you need to visit the FIA Rally Star website and register for an FIA Rally Star ID.
This gains you access to the competition. Set across 12 timed events with online leaderboards, you all get to use the new Rally 3 Fiesta in-game for the first time. Based on the front-wheel-drive JWRC Rally 4-spec Fiesta, it adds power to the rear axle too, delivering a new cost-effective entry-level four-wheel-drive rally class.
In WRC 9, it’s a fun steer. There is still a hint of understeer, the car understandably not as sharp upon corner entry as the top-spec WRC monsters. But, because you are going at slower speeds, you have more time to think about the perfect apex point or even a Per Eklund-esque Scandinavian flick before the tighter corners. The Rally 3 car is chuckable and easy to place. The perfect breeding ground for the next generation.
The one stage that is available so far is based around the pre-existing Test Area open-world section. You will recognise elements from the Career mode challenge areas too. New, technically, but yesterday’s Sunday lunch for breakfast. A challenging and lengthy 8.20km addition though, that starts out in the wet and soon dries up with a blinding sunset towards the end, highlighting the dynamic weather.
Form a competition point of view, you get 100 practices per event, and then five timed runs – the best time of which will be added to the leaderboard and count as your final entry.
Strangely, while this is paid DLC, you cannot use the new car or stages in any of the other game modes. In effect, you are paying an event entry fee. This may seem odd, but for less than the price of two of Starbucks’ deluxe hot chocolates, you could be the one who gains a WRC career.
If you think of it like that, the FIA Rally Star programme is an absolute bargain. I implore any would-be Loeb, Ogier or Tanak to fire up their console and enter as soon as possible. It is not hyperbole when I say this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.