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Gill takes FIA Rally Star spoils in rally won by Tanak

Taylor Gill emerged as the top FIA Rally Star performer at the Saaremaa Rally, won by World Rally Championship driver Ott Tanak.

Taylor Gill

The Estonian gravel rally acted as the fourth round of the FIA's new WRC talent spotting initiative last weekend.

Organised and funded by the FIA, six driver and co-driver pairings have been selected from regional finals held across the world to tackle six European rallies this year behind the wheel of an M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally3 car.

The best four crews at the end of the six rallies will receive a fully funded two-year programme in the Junior WRC beginning in 2024. If one of the finalists wins the JWRC title, they will earn a coveted WRC2 campaign for 2026.

The rally was the first time all six Rally Star crews had contested an event that featured a current WRC star in Tanak. The 2019 world champion, who will move from M-Sport to Hyundai for the 2024 season, took the overall victory, driving an M-Sport-built Ford Fiesta Rally2 machine.

Tanak, competing alongside compatriot and last year's Junior WRC champion Robert Virves, claimed the win by 9.2s from fellow Estonian duo Ken Torn and Kuldar Sikk.

Australian pairing of Gill and Daniel Brkic also battled through stormy conditions to finish the rally as the best placed of the Rally Star crews, in 20th overall and fourth in the Rally3 class.

Gill was elevated into the position after Rally Star rivals Romet Jurgenson and Jose Caparo hit trouble on stages eight and 11 respectively.

Romet Jurgenson

Romet Jurgenson

Photo by: FIA

Jurgenson, who had been the fastest of the Rally Star drivers in the previous two events, lost 3m30s when the Estonian had to change a wheel. Caparo lost time when he suffered tyre damage, but went on to finish 22nd overall, one spot behind Jurgenson.

"The rally was really, really tricky but it was good to gain the experience and get to the finish of every single stage," said Gill.

"It was unlike any event I'd ever done before so it's really crucial what we gained this weekend.

"I'd never driven in deep ruts like we had before, the bottom of the car was dragging on the ground for 100 metres at a time. That was certainly the biggest learning curve from the weekend.

"I hope to be stronger on the next rally in Spain where the gravel will hopefully have similarities to what I am used to in Australia."

Abdullah Al-Tawqi and co-driver Ronan Comerford finished fourth on the Rally Star field, ahead of Max Smart/Cameron Fair and Annia Cilloniz/Esther Gutierrez, who were hampered by punctures and an electrical issue, respectively.

The FIA Rally Star competition continues with a visit to RallyRACC, Spain for the penultimate round from 20-21 October.

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