Taylor Gill has enjoyed a dream international debut over the weekend having been victorious in the FIA Rally Star’s first event for its 2023 Training Season.
Gill was selected along with five other aspiring rally drivers from around the world to take part in the pioneering program, with the first event being part of the weekend’s San Marino Rally in Italy.
A huge field of 81 crews were entered in the nine-stage rally, which would see crews get three passes of three different stages, with all six Rally Star participants entered in the Rally3 class.
Right from the get-go, Gill and co-driver Daniel Bkric were towards the top of the time sheets with the Aussies going fastest in the opening stage, which served as the Power Stage on Friday night.
Heading into Saturday morning with a three second advantage over Peruvians Jose Caparó and Guillermo Sierra Ovalle, Gill and Brkic finished the next three stages behind Estonians Romet Jürgenson and Siim Oja.
Jürgenson’s three stage wins put him on equal terms with Gill, before the New South Welshman got his second stage win on SS5 to move to just three tenths ahead before service.
The two were the clear front runners with Caparó more than one and half minutes behind, but soon it would be the Aussie on his own as Jürgenson crashed out on SS6.
Gill then went on to win the remaining three stages to beat Caparó by four minutes, while also finishing the event in 10th outright – just over two minutes off the outright winning crew of Nikolay Gryazin and Konstantin Aleksandrov.
Making the result even more impressive was that it was Gill’s first competitive rally since last year’s Supercheap Auto Coffs Coast Rally, and the 19-year-old was understandably thrilled.
“It was an amazing feeling to get this result and it was just so good that after all the months of preparation that involved moving overseas, everything came together,” Gill said.
“With that said, it was a bit hard to know how we would go as we didn’t know much about the people we were up against, but I knew Roman would be fast and our times were very close together.
“The result gives us good confidence and gives us a good idea about where we sit and what we can improve on.
“Nothing majorly stands out, but I think you can always improve on driving and the rally was very short, so it wasn’t a huge fitness test.
“It was just such a cool experience. The rally was only 75 competitive kilometres, which is less distance than you’d do at a state round, but there were thousands of spectators, and it took over the whole town of San Marino, so the atmosphere was awesome.”
As for the general program, Gill was highly complimentary of the experience and was looking forward to learning more.
“For the FIA team organising the program, they have told us that this year is more about development and that the results don’t entirely matter,” Gill explained.
“There is always a little bit of pressure being a program like this, but they have been good about it. There are no points or titles or anything. Of course the FIA don’t want us to be making mistakes but if we are learning from them and can come back stronger it’s not entirely a bad thing.
“So, in that sense, there is no pressure and we are all helping each other out, making sure we don’t make mistakes and sharing notes on the stages – stuff like that.
“However, it’s a competition we all want to win and are trying to beat each other, but this year is more about learning than anything and we must be mature about it.
“I also must give thanks to Shannons Insurance and the rest of our loyal sponsors for helping with the journey so far.
“We’ve been able to complete some extra training around the Rally Star program, which has included driving on tarmac which will be invaluable come the next round.”
The FIA Rally Star program continues next month with Rally Weiz in Austria on 13-15 July.