Taylor Gill can dream of a WRC future after winning India’s FIA Rally Star Asia-Pacific Final
Taylor Gill, 18, from Australia, was one of 40 participants representing seven ASNs to gather on Monday morning at the Madras International Circuit in India for three days of intense competition and judging with the aim of earning a place in the FIA Rally Star Training season up for grabs in 2023.
Thirteen drivers, two of whom were women, distinguished themselves by progressing through to today’s final in Chennai, which included a rigorous physical test followed by an opportunity to show off their skills at the wheel of a Pirelli-equipped TN5 Cross Car run by the FIA World Rally Championship driver to demonstrate Thierry Neuville’s LifeLive organization.
After a 3.7-kilometre stretch of gravel and tarmac sections, which was much quicker than Monday and Tuesday’s layouts, the drivers took part in a series of reflex tests before being interviewed by the five-person jury, consisting of Andrew Wheatley (Chairman) and the members Maciej Woda, Pernilla Solberg, David Terrien and Guy Botterill.
After a period of deliberation, the Jury confirmed Taylor Gill as the winner of the FIA Rally Star Asia-Pacific Final while Pragathi Gowda was selected to represent the Asia-Pacific region in the FIA Rally Star Women’s Final, details of which will be announced at a later date.
As well as the honor and achievement of winning the FIA Rally Star Asia-Pacific Final against very strong competition, Taylor Gill will represent his region in the 2023 FIA Rally Star practice season.
In addition to six rallies in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally3, the FIA Rally Star training season package includes physical and intellectual assessment, driver coaching and testing. The aim is to equip the successful participants with the qualities they need to secure a place in the FIA World Rally Championship in the future. Indeed, the four best-performing drivers of the 2024 FIA Rally Star Training season will win a drive in the FIA Junior WRC Championship, the first step on the ladder to the premier, hybrid-based Rally1 category.
Taylor Gill is the fourth winner of the FIA Rally Star Continental Final, following Romet Juergenson, European final winner from Estonia, Abdullah Al Tawqi, who won the MENA final representing Oman, and Max Smart (South Africa), winner of the African final .
Maja Hallén Fellenius (Sweden) and Katie Milner (Great Britain) qualified first for the Women’s Final after their performances in the European Final, while Farah Zakaria of Jordan qualified for the FIA Rally Star MENA Final with Kristie Ellis (South Africa). made it through the African final. Pragathi Gowda (India) joins the winners club as they prepare for the women’s grand final in a few months.
The South and North America Continental Finals will be held early next year, with the two winners of those events joining the other Continental Finals winners – plus the Women’s Finals winner – for the inaugural FIA Rally Star training season in 2023.
Taylor Gill, 18, from Australia, winner of the FIA Rally Star Asia-Pacific Final: “You may have to give me ten minutes to put that into words! It’s pretty cool, obviously everyone does it, but you don’t expect to get it, so I’m over the moon!
There was obviously a lot of pressure, especially to go out today and get another run, I couldn’t make any mistakes, I tried that so I’m super happy!”
Pragathi Gowda25, from India, winner of the FIA Rally Star Asia-Pacific Final: “I’m very surprised, I didn’t think I would get through it because there were strong girls out there. But I said to myself, no matter what happens, I will not give up and I will do my best. Luckily it worked, I’m very happy to be here, a big thank you to the FIA Rally Star for organizing in my country, because I think it’s better, you have more confidence and I think that’s why I am here.
I have to prepare for that [FIA Rally Star Women’s Final]I’m looking forward to it and I’ll do my best. Let’s see what happens and hope for the best.”
Andrew Wheatley, FIA Rally Director and Jury Chairman: “It was a fantastic combination of enthusiasm and performance. We saw incredible drives from the competition. We have winners, but we have also seen great riders who have supported the winners and will also compete internationally at high levels around the world.
I think we saw a good combination of people who have experience in rallying and grassroots racing. But we’ve also seen people from pure eSports backgrounds equally able to drive in these difficult conditions and cars and show their skills and ability.”
David Terrien, Jury Member & Karting World Champion: “It’s not just a time trial, we’re looking for a complete racer with a mix of skill, preparation, ability to learn and implementing some tips given to him. It’s also about physical preparation and reflexes.
We also interview them to learn more about their motivation, background and knowledge of motorsport. Some riders have experience, some don’t and that is also taken into account when we have an inexperienced rider doing very well.”
Guy Botterill, Jury Member & South African Rally Champion: “The level of the drivers was amazing! The level of esports drivers and women was incredible, they were really strong. It was also great to have such a mix of cultures and countries and it was impressive to bring them all together and see their time. Everyone had an immense passion and they must grow the sport in their country. I know there is a winner and a loser, they all think about their future projects when they go home to improve, but I think motorsport is the overall winner.
Conditions were very tough this week. We had extreme heat, it was rainy, muddy and dusty so the riders who qualified for the days and the winners did an exceptional job. It was a good experience for everyone because that’s what rallying is all about, it was a good test and it was incredibly difficult with the layouts designed to be tough. The organizers of the event did a really good job of making it difficult because there is no point in having roads that are too easy at an event like this.”
Akbar Ebrahim, President of the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI): “It was a great opportunity for them as they never had the opportunity to try such devices and participate in such a program. Looking at the pyramid that was built and the aspiration, I think it was a wonderful opportunity for them and they really enjoyed it. The gaps were large when they started, but as they acclimated the levels improved and that was satisfying.
Using a cross car as a base for developing potential rally talent is certainly a fantastic concept.”