The FIA WRC Academy crews’ extensive training sessions will continue over the season’s remaining four events as the drivers and co-drivers receive expert tuition in a range of areas from some of motorsport’s most talented and respected individuals.
In a new approach from the more theoretical training of the WRC Academy’s inaugural season, this year’s series – supported by Ford Racing in Europe and with control tyres from Pirelli – will see crews participate in more practical, hands-on training as M-Sport endeavours to provide the stars of tomorrow with the broad range of skills required to become a future WRC world champion.
Having participated in a number of training sessions already this year, the WRC Academy crews are well prepared for the challenges ahead, but with further sessions in the pipeline, the crews will look to master the skills required to make it to the top of the sport.
At the season opener in Portugal, the WRC Academy drivers and co-drivers were put through their paces with fitness training from European gold medal winning triathlete, Barry Johnson, essential First Aid training from FIA Medical Delegate, Jean Duby, and given a lesson in writing effective pacenotes from Ford World Rally Team’s Chris Patterson.
Embarking on what is renowned as the toughest event of the season at the Acropolis Rally of Greece, crews completed a training session in ‘bush mechanics’ – the art of fixing an ailing rally car using only the tools to hand – from Ford World Rally Team technician, Darren Mason, and a Q&A session with Citroën Total World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen.
In preparation for the third round of the season at what is known to many as rallying’s spiritual home in Finland, the WRC Academy crews will have the opportunity to learn about tyres from Pirelli Motorsport Racing Engineer, Matteo Braga; as well as putting their questions to the hoonigan himself, and master of PR and social media, Ken Block. The Pirelli workshop will offer the drivers and co-drivers a fuller understanding of the design, tread pattern and compound of both Pirelli’s gravel and Tarmac tyres as well as learning how to use the tyres to their maximum potential, set pressures and decide race strategy.
An exciting opportunity awaits the WRC Academy crews in the lead-up to the first closed-surface event of the season in Germany as the drivers and co-drivers learn the skills of asphalt driving before watching the experts in action and putting their training into practice.
With special access to Ford’s testing ground at Lommel in Belgium, the WRC Academy crews will receive a lesson in Tarmac driving from professional instructor and former Le Mans and FIA GT driver, Fabio Babini; Italian rally driver and professional instructor, Tobia Cavallini; and F1 driving tutor, Rob Wilson, who has taught the likes of Pastor Maldonado, Bruno Senna, Kimi Räikkönen, Pedro de la Rosa, as well as Mikko Hirvonen, Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg. The crews will then make the journey to the legendary Nürburgring where they will have the opportunity to watch the weekend’s DTM action at the invitation of DTM promoters ITR – thus learning the art of asphalt driving before watching the experts and putting all they have learnt to good use on the German stages.
On location in Trier, competitors will be offered training from renowned shock absorber manufacturers, Reiger. Sharing their knowledge of damper set-up and mechanics, representatives from Reiger will strip a Ford Fiesta R2 damper to give the WRC Academy crews a fuller understanding of the car’s suspension and how adjusting the damper ‘clicks’ can improve the performance of the car.
Rallye de France hosts the penultimate round of the season with WRC Academy crews emulating the Tour de France stages in a cycling tour of the Strasbourg region from M-Sport trainer, Barry Johnson. In addition, the crews have also been invited to attend a workshop hosted by Think!Sponsorship – the leading provider of training to the sponsorship industry – in which they will hone their sales skills, develop effective and realistic sponsorship proposals and channel their understanding of the current market in which their ideas will sit.
The season finale in Spain will offer the most exciting training initiative yet as crews receive a lesson in ‘stunt driving’ from the longest serving member of the Top Gear Live stunt driving team, Gordon Clendinning. Teaching the crews improved clutch control, confidence with the handbrake and spatial awareness, the session will also teach the WRC Academy drivers skills that can be replicated to provide sponsors with an added extra at corporate events – high-speed parallel parking, stunt driving against the clock and an array of other fun tricks!
Throughout the season, crews will also have the opportunity to meet with some of the most successful drivers in the sport as they gain expert tips and advice from some of the WRC’s biggest stars.
Providing the highest level of training both on and off the stage, M-Sport aim to provide the stars of tomorrow with the vital skills required to make the next big step in their respective rallying careers.
João Silva said:
“The training has been very good. When I entered the [WRC] Academy I had a small idea about everything, but nothing very detailed. Here I have the chance to learn from the best and I am making the most of all the information – trying to put it into practice during the rally and during our day-to-day routines.
“The scheduled training [at future events] looks very exciting and I’m eager to participate in them. The training from Reiger is the one I am most excited about because, for me, the suspension is the most complex component on the car as it varies from driver to driver. Also the stunt driving experience and the Tarmac driving tuition should be amazing.
“The training is all very useful. For example in Portugal, I had to start making my own pacenotes with only two passes. As I was not used to this, I tried to sort all my doubts with Chris [Patterson] and hear all his tips and advice. Now, after two rallies, I feel better prepared. Also physically I have been following the training plan that Barry [Johnson] gave me. This way I feel better prepared, more agile and much faster.”
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