The FIA has confirmed that the Pirelli 'Star Driver' scheme will begin this year in a bid to help younger competitors reach the pinnacle of the sport and compete in the World Rally Championship.

The programme is a joint initiative between Pirelli, the official tyre supplier to the WRC and the World Rally Championship Commission and the plan was recently ratified by the World Motor Sport Council.

"The Pirelli 'Star Driver' scheme is a worldwide search for five young rally drivers from the 2008 and 2009 FIA Regional Championships," explained a statement from the sports governing body.

"The successful drivers from each year will then contest a series of six World Championship rallies the following season, driving identical Group N or Super 2000 cars supplied and serviced under an FIA contract with a specialist preparation company."

The programme - which definitely bears some similarity to the Pirelli prize drive offered in the British Rally Championship - will be structured through the four FIA Regional Championships, with one driver emerging from each of the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Africa regions. Two competitors will be selected from the European region after a three-day 'shoot-out'. It is also hoped to expand the programme into South America in 2009.

Competitors must be under the age of 27 on 1st January in the year of the Regional Championship to be eligible.

During 2008 and 2009, ways in which to develop the scheme - including the opportunity for the most successful Star Driver to be offered a test drive by a registered WRC team - will also be studied.

The FIA and Pirelli plan to 'invest in the growth of the sport' too. As such the FIA regions, working with all their National Sporting Authorities (ASNs), will be provided with development assistance to promote their Regional Championship and help competitors contest their events.