The two Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy co-drivers who were selected to participate in the FIA Rally Star initiative will get their six-rally programme underway this weekend in San Marino.
Ronan Comerford from County Armagh will co-drive for Abdullah Al Tawqi (Oman) and Mayo’s Lorcan Moore has been selected to call pacenotes for Max Smart (South Africa).
They are two of six crews from across the world, all aged between 17 and 26, who will begin their first steps on the World Rally Championship pyramid at this weekend’s Rally di San Marino
The crews will contest a series of six national-level rallies all over Europe in identical Ford Fiesta Rally 3 machinery similar to what Junior World Rally Championship drivers use.
On offer is one of the biggest prizes in World rallying, with the top-four performers earning a fully funded drive in the 2024 FIA Junior WRC.
In a massive coup for the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy, two Irish co-drivers were selected for the programme and will begin their new careers on the all-gravel rally which gets underway on Friday.
“For sure it’s a new experience going to compete on these European events, but I feel it’s where I need to be at to drive my career forward,” said Comerford.
“Starting with San Marino, it’s short but technical and an ideal event to bed ourselves into this six-round calendar. The stages don’t get rutted and it’s more smooth but loose marbles on top.”
The FIA Rally Star initiative scheme was launched in Sardinia ahead of the Italian round of the World Rally Championship earlier this month.
“We had a two-week training camp in Sardina, I have never seen anything like it, fitness, sports psychology, pacenote making, testing on gravel or tarmac, rallying of some sort every day for two weeks,” said Moore.
Moore and his South African driver Smart have spent recent times practising pacenote making on old Circuit of Ireland and Mayo Rally stages close to his Crossmolina home.
Both co-drivers were able to turn to fellow Rally Academy member Aoife Raftery for advice ahead of the rally.
Last year the rising Galway star marked her first year in rallying by contesting the Rally di San Marino in a Peugeot 208 Rally 4 by Tamara Molinaro’s G Car Sport team.
It was her first international event outside Ireland or Britain and ultimately paved the way for her participation in this year’s Junior European Rally Championship in her own Peugeot 208 Rally 4.
She said: It is a nice rally, quite technical, with corner after corner. The surface is quite hard, and there are bits of tar [in the stages] as well. There is a bit of climbing and descending and ascending, a nice rally.”
In another Irish connection to the FIA Rally Star programme, Motorsport Ireland licence holder and former World Rally Championship competitor Chris Patterson is the co-driver coach on the scheme.
The Rally di San Marino opens with a short spectator stage on Friday night followed by around 70 km of gravel roads across eight stages on Saturday.
Text by: Sean Moriarty