The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) section of the The FIA Rally Star program took place on Sunday 20th March 2022 at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi and found two more potential future rally heroes.
Oman Abdullah Masoud Altawqi won the MENA overall, while Farah Zakaria booked her name for the Women’s World Finals in America later that year. The first selection was made in March 2021 via the FIA Rally Star DLC for Kylotonn’s WRC 9 rally simulation.
In February we covered the European stage of the competition – one of six continental finals throughout the year – with Romet Juergenson emerging victorious.
Alongside the Estonian, Hallén Fellenius and Katie Milner finished as joint winners and will join Zakaria and at least four other female competitors in the women’s final.
20 MENA contestants were reduced to 12 on the third day of the competition where they raced against the clock on a 1km gravel track in 115hp TN5 Cross Cars – provided by WRC star Thierry Neuville’s LifeLive shop.
The 12 drivers were then interviewed by the FIA Rally Star jury, including current WRC M-Sport Ford driver Gus Greensmith, former FIA World Rallycross Champion PSRX Team Principal Pernilla Solberg, Pirelli Rally Activity Manager Terenzio Testoni and von Maciej Woda M-Sport Poland and former karting world champion David Terrien.
Jury Chair Pernilla Solberg explained that the judges were not only concerned with speed: “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.
“Of course, speed is the important criterion, but we would like to find out from the members 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 in a team with engineers and mechanics and it’s important to see how they communicate. Having all these criteria makes it interesting.”
After assessing physical fitness, the 12 became four and the jury reconvened to select Abdullah Masoud Altawqi and Jordan’s Farah Zakaria as the winners. Anthony Dagher from Lebanon has been selected as a backup driver for MENA.
“I’m very happy to have won the FIA Rally Star,” said Altawqi.
“We tried the cross cars during the shakedown, it was very difficult to drive. I got used to it during the qualifying day and the final, the competition was intense but I finally won!”
Zakaria was understandably delighted too: “I’m so happy to have won! It was a super experience, I want to congratulate the other participants who took part. I’m really looking forward to representing Jordan at the women’s finals in America.”
The FIA Rally Star Continental Finals will run throughout 2022, with the six winners in 2023 joining the winner of the Women’s World Final in a year of practical and mental training with six rallies in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally3.
The prize for the final top 4 in global competition is a fully-paid ride in the Junior World Rally Championship (JWRC) in 2024. The top three candidates will receive a second season in the JWRC in 2025, and if one of the three wins the championship awaits in 2026 a full season of WRC2.
The next continental final – the African final – will take place between May 27th and 29th at Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria, South Africa.
Image source: FIA