A brand new feeder series to the World Rally Championship will start in 2011, run in partnership by motorsport's governing body, the FIA and the WRC's global promoter, North One Sport, it was announced at the weekend.
“The 'WRC Academy' will be the first step on the WRC ladder for young drivers and will give the stars of tomorrow an unrivalled opportunity to develop their talent on the world stage in an extremely cost effective way,” said the organisers in a statement to the media.
The WRC Academy aims to build on the successful elements of the Junior World Rally Championship, which is where current WRC stars Sebastien Loeb, Dani Sordo and Sebastien Ogier cut their teeth.
However it also wants to set 'new standards for training and development as pioneered in the Pirelli Star Driver programme'.
The WRC Academy will be a one make series where all drivers will compete with identical Ford Fiesta R2s prepared by M-Sport. To further level the competition, the cars will be fitted with control tyres from Pirelli.
The six round series will run as a separate category on WRC rallies in 2011, to ensure drivers gain relevant experience and exposure alongside the main competition.
“The WRC Academy aims to be accessible and affordable and the basic cost of participation is set at 118,000 UK Pounds (approx 135,000 Euros) per season. In addition, drivers will have to provide for travel and accommodation for the crew, a car to participate in recce and the cost of repairing accident damage to the cars,” added the organisers.
“As well as learning their craft on the stages, drivers contesting the WRC Academy will take part in a comprehensive training and tuition programme to maximise their potential both in and out of their cars and equip them for every aspect of competing in an FIA global championship.”
An extra incentive for the competitors of the WRC Academy will be a 'substantial' prize fund, including a scholarship worth 500,000 Euros, for the winner. Further details about the WRC Academy, its regulations and its calendar of events will be announced in the next two weeks.