Was SVG’s ‘off’ a blessing in disguise?

| Photographer Credit: Ross Hyde Photography

Yet again he was showing an incredible turn of speed, but Shane van Gisbergen’s minor off at Rally Hawke’s Bay could prove to be the best thing for his rallying career.

The dual Supercars champion has left onlookers gobsmacked with his speed and commitment since his rallying escapades began at the Jack’s Ridge Rallysprint in 2020.

When he debuted in the Australian Rally Championship in April this year, he finished a brilliant second, and even won the rally-ending Power Stage against the might of Toyota’s Harry Bates.

He recently won the Rally of the North, and led the latest round of the New Zealand series by over 17 seconds, from Ben Hunt, after three stages.

Then things turned pear shaped, as SVG out braked himself not far into the fourth stage of the rally and the car was stuck over a bank and off the road.

There was no physical damage to the car, but in his eagerness to get back on the road, he broke reverse gear in the Skoda Fabia’s sequential box and was stuck fast.

His RaceTorque team repaired the car at service and he rejoined the rally later on, but any chance of a result was gone.

The off was hardly anything to write home about. It wasn’t one of those bone-crunching hits you often see at this level, but nevertheless, it will be the perfect wake up call for the talented steerer.

Nobody is infallible, particularly in a sport on unpredictable, changing surfaces like rallying.

There’s no question that van Gisbergen will have had many butt-clenching moments and near misses in the rallies that he’s done so far.

But the day came when he didn’t get away with it, and it will be a welcome reminder that it can, and does, happen to the best of them.

I’m sure that it won’t have dented his confidence one bit, and with words such as “freak” being bandied around by many, including Talk Motorsport editor Benjamin Carrell, it won’t be long before we see more stage wins and rally victories.

It’s all part of the learning process though, and with Rally New Zealand rapidly approaching, it may prove to be the best lesson SVG has learnt so far.

WRC extension on the cars for Rally NZ

Rally New Zealand looks to be on the cusp of an extended run in the World Rally Championship after comments from the WRC Promoter.

“We’re in very final negotiations about Rally New Zealand for 2023,” WRC Promoter event director Simon Larkin told www.stuff.co.nz on the weekend.

“If everything continues the way it is now, I’m confident we’ll be there again.

“When we started as a company in 2013, one of our goals was to try to bring back some of the historical, iconic events.

“Rally NZ would have been one of those in 2020 (cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic).

“We’ve since brought back Kenya, Acropolis (Greece) and now with New Zealand, we’re achieving what we wanted to do.

“We were very disappointed about 2020, but to go back there this year is the culmination of people like PJ (Johnston, Rally NZ chairman), Michael Goldstein (Rally NZ CEO) working towards this for many years.

“It’s finally being realised and we’re delighted. It wasn’t always anyone’s intention for it just to be a one and done.”

Larkin added that the quality of the roads in New Zealand is another key reason for the WRC returning.

“No one questions the pedigree of the roads, or the event. It’s exciting. The service park in the centre of town is brilliant.”

With Rally Australia set to return to the WRC in 2024, this won’t necessarily mean that Rally New Zealand will disappear though.

“We do want to go back to Australia, but that’s not necessarily at the expense of New Zealand,” he said.

This year’s Rally New Zealand takes place from September 29 to October 2.

Peter has been the editor of RallySport Magazine since its inception in 1989, in both printed and online form. He is a long-time competitor, event organiser and official, as well as working in the media.


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