Rally Star crews ready for Rally Italia Sardegna

Rally Star crews ready for Rally Italia Sardegna

Romet Jürgenson leads FIA Junior WRC Championship after two rounds
Taylor Gill in second place following first category podium on Croatia Rally
Max Smart joins FIA Rally Star team-mates in preparing hard for gravel round
Jose ‘Abito’ Caparó returns to Sardinia boosted by first Junior WRC points

A challenging gravel contest awaits the FIA Rally Star drivers this week with Rally Italia Sardegna marking the next stage of the quartet’s FIA Junior WRC Championship adventure.


Based in Alghero from May 30-June 2, Rally Italia Sardegna is round three of the five-event Junior WRC season and a chance for Jose ‘Abito’ Caparó, Taylor Gill, Romet Jürgenson and Max Smart to visit some previously-charted territory.


Twelve months ago, the rising talents were in Sardinia for the FIA Rally Star Training Camp where they were put through their paces in gravel and Tarmac test sessions and training workshops, benefitting from a wealth of expertise and advice from the FIA instructors. The Training Camp included the reconnaissance for Rally Italia Sardegna, plus a day of media activities.


Caparó, Gill, Jürgenson and Smart now return to Sardinia having successfully progressed through the FIA Rally Star Training Season in 2023 and into the Junior WRC for 2024. 


Following the high-speed, ice-coated stages of Rally Sweden and the low-grip Croatia Rally asphalt, Rally Italia Sardegna is a chance for the fast four to build their experience on rough and tough gravel. With high temperatures, rock-lined roads and a compact itinerary meaning early starts and late finishes, a challenging three days of action awaits.


FIA Rally Star latest news and views

• Victory on April’s Croatia Rally propelled Romet Jürgenson to the top of the provisional Junior WRC standings after two rounds.
• He holds a 20-point advantage over Taylor Gill, the next highest-placed Junior WRC regular.
• Gill’s championship standing follows his runner-up placing on Croatia Rally after the Australian finished eighth in Junior WRC in Sweden back in February.
• Estonian Jürgenson reacclimatised to gravel by contesting Rally Adriatico in Italy earlier this month as part of his additional competition programme. He finished a strong second in Rally3 and 16th overall.
• Jose ‘Abito’ Caparó opened his Junior WRC points-scoring account with sixth place on Croatia Rally, making amends for his non-finish on Rally Sweden.
• After finishing 10th among the Junior WRC contenders in Sweden, Max Smart was seventh in Croatia. The South African has prepared for Rally Italia Sardegna by following a rigorous physical and mental training programme in his home city of Cape Town.


FIA Rally Star pre-Rally Italia Sardegna quotes

FIA Rally Star Project Leader Jérôme Roussel said: “With Romet and Taylor first and second in the provisional FIA Junior WRC standings, it’s fair to say the 2024 season is going better than we could have imagined. There are three very challenging gravel rallies remaining and plenty of learning still to be done and progress to be made, which is very much the focus going into Rally Italia Sardegna. While Romet and Taylor have adapted really well to the demands of Junior WRC, Abito and Max are still finding their feet but clearly showing plenty of potential and a real determination to improve. They’re working hard and will take confidence from what they have achieved so far. This will be a tough event, there’s no question, but the plan remains for our four drivers to finish all stages while demonstrating their speed when the conditions allow.”


Romet Jürgenson (EST) said: “Snow and Tarmac is over now and it’s time for gravel. It’s a surface I’m more used to but, at the same time, I know Sardinia is going to be a really difficult event - maybe one of the most difficult of the season. With so many Rally2 cars in front of us, we have to take a different approach, particularly for the second pass of stages when the roads will be quite damaged. I like these kinds of roads where you have to be accurate, you can’t really go wide anywhere because you have some hidden rocks on the side of the road. We have a good overview of the stages from the recce we did last year although my pacenote system has developed quite a lot since then. We’re in a good position in the championship so let’s try to continue this.”


Taylor Gill (AUS) said: “Sardinia is obviously going to be a huge challenge, a very rough event as everyone knows. Thankfully we have some sort of idea of what to expect having done the recce and the Training Camp in Sardinia last year. This gives us a little bit of knowledge as opposed to walking into the unknown. We’ve prepared really hard, trying to work out what are the stages where we can push and maximise the speed and what stages we really have to take easy and get through. We just want to get through the event cleanly and if we can do every stage without stopping that would already put us in position for a good result.”


Jose ‘Abito’ Caparó (PER) said: “It will be a challenge to be on a good pace but for sure I will apply what I learned on the recce last year. It’s helping a lot because I can realise how the stages will be and what the weather might be like. For sure I have to be on a good pace but I have to improve a lot and I am working on this, with a lot of steps. I have prepared a lot of files with pictures and descriptions of the road. I am working a lot on the simulator and improving my reflexes and my reactions with my physical activity to be in a good position. I want to be in a good place at the finish, but with a good pace and try to improve more with Esther my co-driver. We are having a good confidence and that’s the main thing.”


Max Smart (ZAF): “I’m really keen for Sardinia and really keen to get back on gravel, I love gravel and it’s so fun to drive on. The stages look awesome, a mix of medium-speed, low-speed and even some high-speed sections. There are lots of different characteristics throughout the rally with narrow sections, some wider sections, some really bumpy and cresty sections through to awesome flat-out sections where you can see far ahead. Doing the FIA Rally Star Training Camp last year meant we got to check out some of the stages when we did the recce, which was great. Even from doing the preparation I know a bit about what is coming up. I’m going to this event with the aim of having a really good rally.”

Rally Italia Sardegna in numbers

Stage distance: 266.12 km
Total distance: 1035.46 km
Number of stages: 16

FIA Junior WRC Championship event schedule refresher

The 2024 FIA Junior WRC Championship consists of five rounds as follows:

Rally Sweden (Snow/ice), February 15-18
Croatia Rally (Tarmac), April 18-21
Rally Italia Sardegna (Gravel), May 30-June 2
Secto Rally Finland (Gravel), August 1-4
EKO Acropolis Rally Greece (Gravel), September 5-8
FIA Rally Star drivers (in Rally Italia Sardegna start number order)

70. Romet Jürgenson (24, Estonia) Co-driver: Siim Oja (EST)
71. Taylor Gill (20, Australia) Co-driver: Daniel Brkic (AUS)
79. Jose ‘Abito’ Caparó (27, Peru) Co-driver: Esther Gutiérrez (ESP)
80. Max Smart (21, South Africa) Co-driver: Cameron Fair (GBR)

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