Why does Aussie Brendan Reeves keep coming back to NZ?

| Photographer Credit: Terry Marshall/Euan Cameron Photography

He may be from Victoria, Australia, but rally driver Brendan Reeves has a strong association with the Kiwi rallying and an impressive resume.

Reeves has been coming to NZ since 2008 when he competed in both the Rally Whangarei and Rally NZ in a Ford Fiesta.  While electrical problems thwarted his Whangarei debut, he finished first in the K2 class and 25th overall in Rally NZ.

The following two years he finished third overall (2009 and 2010) at Whangarei driving a Subaru WRX STI.

He won the 2010 Pirelli Star Driver shootout in 2010 which gave him a fully-funded drive in six rounds of the World Rally Championship (WRC) Rally Academy in 2011 where he finished fifth overall driving a Ford Fiesta R2.  2012 saw him compete again in the WRC Academy Championship this time finishing fourth overall (Ford Fiesta R2).

Brendon Reeves and Rhianon Gelsomino - Coromandel Rally 2016 (2)
Brendan Reeves and Rhianon Gelsomino competing in the Coromandel Rally 2016

It wasn’t until 2016 that Reeves returned to NZ to compete at Coromandel with current co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino, this time driving a new Andrew Hawkeswood built Mazda2 AP4 car.  A year later they were to take the outright win in the 2017 Mahindra Gold Rush Rally of Coromandel. Both in 2016 and 2017 Reeves worked closely with Hayden Paddon’s WRC campaign, at Hyundai Motorsport, as part of his gravel crew.

For 2018 they competed in both the Rally of South Canterbury (eighth overall) and Rally Coromandel (fifth overall), again in Hawkeswood’s Mazda2 AP4.  This season will see him compete in five of the six NZ Rally Championship rounds with Stokes Motorsport driving a brand new Ford Fiesta AP4 car.

Brendon Reeves and Rhianon Gelsomino at Bobbing Creek, SS13, Rally Otago 2019
Brendan Reeves and Rhianon Gelsomino at Bobbing Creek, SS13, Ford Fiesta AP4 – Rally Otago 2019

So why come to New Zealand?

“I love the roads and love the competition.  I’m good friends with Hayden Paddon, and got an opportunity with Andrew Hawkeswood to drive over here and absolutely loved it so I keep coming back.  I really pushed to do the whole NZRC this year but I had agreed on a deal with Hyundai Australia to do Targa Tasmanian which clashed Rally Whangarei.

.”It’s going to be a difficult championship with the points that we have missed out on in Whangarei.

“We are trying to think about pushing on the power stages and maximising our points and opportunities.”

Unfortunately Reeves and Gelsomino retired out of the first day at Rally Otago on the penultimate stage with an alternator problem.  They had already won three of the six stages in the NZ Rally Champship category before retiring, but returned for Day 2 winning a further two stages.

So what does he see as the main differences between competing in NZ and Australia?

“There are a lot more competitors here in NZ.  The problem that we have in Australia is that the country is so big.  The State championships are strong whereas the national is not.  It is such a big cost to travel from one side of the country to the next, so that’s where it struggles in Australia.

“In saying that, it has picked up this year with the two Toyota factory teams and so on.  But the competition here is so good and I had the opportunity with Stokes Motorsport.”

What’s his view on being fast or reliable?

“Definitely a fast car to win stages but a reliable car to win championships.  It is so important.  It is so easy to get knocked out of a rally with even the small things that go wrong.  Reliability is a massive thing about rallying.  We have tried to do the work over the summer in getting this car prepared but know we are going to have some niggling issues but hopefully we get a clean run.”

Do you have to be fast or the fastest?

“Hayden has a massively fast car but he has developed it over the years and worked towards that.  It may not be the fastest car but setup is so important.

“You don’t need 500Hp if the car isn’t set up right. If you have the diffs, brakes and suspension working perfectly then the rest will work well anyway.  Setup is more important than power especially when you are trying to win a championship.”

Some AP4 cars are running with a 1.6 litre turbo engine, while others have a 1.8 litre turbo in them.  He’s experience both so what does he see as the difference 200cc makes?

“It doesn’t sound a lot.  It is the same restrictor (on both engines), a 34mm, as well as another 70kg of weight.  We had to weigh up the difference in that and we found that the 1.6 (Ford) was harder to develop to be fast whereas the 1.8 engine had already been developed.  The car has a lot of torque so you can change up early and not spin the wheels and work the tyres as well.”

He may have lucked-out with reliability at Rally Otago but he and Gelsomino will be back for the one-day Rally Canterbury 2 June.  Brian Stokes and the Stokes Motorsport team has a proud rallying history, particularly with Fords and it is their home event so we can expect a top effort from all involved in the team.

Brendon Reeves and Rhianon Gelsomino take 'the jump' on Shag Valley Back Road SS14, Rally Otago 2019
Brendan Reeves and Rhianon Gelsomino take ‘the jump’ on Shag Valley Back Road SS14, Rally Otago 2019

Benjamin Carrell

Benjamin Carrell is a freelance motorsport writer and currently edits both talkmotorsport.co.nz and nzmotorracing.co.nz. He writes for a number of Kiwi drivers and motorsport clubs. That's when he's not working in his horticultural day-job or training for the next road or mtb cycle race!


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