This year’s Pirelli Star Driver scheme title will be decided in Kigali during the KCB Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally slated for 17-19, 2009.
The scheme that is in its second year sees five young drivers from around the world win a drive in the six series of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship events.
According to a press release from FIA-ARC, The program is designed to find rallying’s most talented and promising young drivers from the FIA regional championships in Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East.
Each of the regional series’ will host a Shoot-Out competition as a finale to the qualification process, with the successful five drivers (one from Africa, Asia Pacific and the Middle East, and two from Europe) being awarded a six-event FIA World Rally Championship program for 2010.
As an incentive, each of the drivers receives US $ 859 from the Pirelli kit as an appearance fee, while the overall winner from the Gorilla rally is set to receive US $ 4296 in addition to a drive in six rounds of the 2010 World Rally Championship.
Qualification for African drivers is geographically split, north and south. Competitors based in the north will be able to qualify on the Rally of Tanzania and Safari Rally of Kenya, while those in the south have the Zambia International Rally and Zimbabwe Challenge Rally as their qualification events.
The top two Pirelli Star Drivers from each of the events are awarded a place in the African Shoot-Out which is the Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally.
Four African drivers have so far qualified to participate in the Shoot-Out.
Tanzanian driver Navraj Hans and Kenyan Raj Bharij qualified, following their impressive shows in the KCB Safari Rally of Kenya early this month.
Another Tanzanian Randeep Birdi and Madagascar’s Mathew Andrianjaffy qualified during the Kobil Rally of Tanzania in February this year.
Four more drivers will earn tickets in the fourth and fifth rounds of the African Rally Championship to be held in Zimbabwe and Zambia ahead of the final race.
Italian tyre company Pirelli will give full sponsorship and professional training to the drivers who will to win in the Rwanda’s final race.
The Rwanda Automobile Association (RAA) president Dismus Kayibanda told Times Sport recently that the Pirelli-sponsored event will be held alongside the Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally.
“It will be a great opportunity for us to host this event in Rwanda. It will be a three-championship event held at the same.
“The Rwanda Mountain Gorilla rally will be both an African Rally Championship event, a national rally event but it will also act as the Pirelli Youth Championship,” Kayibanda confirmed.
The Pirelli Championship is expected to gain momentum this year following success last year, which saw South Africa’s Jon Williams becoming the first winner of the series driving a ST2000 Volkswagen Polo. Kenyans Alfir Khan and Peter Horsey fell at the last hurdle after a spirited battle.
More young drivers, who fall within the age limit (27 years old and below) allowed to contest the Pirelli series.
Kayibanda further added the local federation is looking forward to finding possible and potential sponsors who will make the event a success.
However, Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) has assured the local body of sponsorship but both parties are yet to go down into details to confirm the details.
The World Motorsport governing body, FIA re-admitted the Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally as a reserve event in the 2009 Africa Rally Championship.
The Rwanda rally had been scrapped off the calendar for failure to stage the event last season.
The local rally body, applied for re-admission, citing financial difficulties which they have now solved, and FIA approved the inclusion of the event in the 2009 calendar that was launched last year.