An interesting trend continues this weekend when yet another leading Australian rally driver heads across the Tasman to contest a round of the New Zealand Rally Championship.
Brendan Reeves has never won his national title, but is widely regarded as the country’s fastest driver, and sits at the top of the national seeding list.
He’s twice won rounds of the NZRC, taking victory in the Coromandel Rally in both 2016 and 2017.
Now, he’s back for another event – the Rally of South Canterbury – and again in the Force Motorsport Mazda 2 AP4.
He joins ex-pat Irishman (and now Aussie) Richie Dalton, and current Australian Rally Champion, Nathan Quinn, as drivers to have thrown their hat in the ring in this year’s NZRC.
So what keeps Reeves coming back to New Zealand, and why isn’t he back home trying to win his own championship?
“As you know I’ve been coming here for two years already as I made some opportunities, and winning rallies helps,” Reeves told TalkMotorsport.
“I really like compact, one-day events, different roads, relaxed rules and Andrew (Hawkeswood) and his team build a great car.”
Australian Championship events run to a different schedule, generally with a two-pass recce on Thursday, media day and shakedown on Friday, and the rally on Saturday and Sunday. With a presentation thrown in on Sunday night, it makes for a long time away from home and work for competitors.
In comparison, Canterbury’s one-pass recce and single day format means that most competitors need to be away from work for less time.
“I really like the ARC and I’d love to take the AP4 back to Australia again,” Reeves added.
“We are putting more effort into testing and improving the 1.6-litre AP4 for now, and the NZRC is the perfect place for that.”
It poses an interesting question about the future of the sport ‘down under’.
There are more Australians considering heading east to tackle the NZRC in future, yet it’s their home country that has the WRC round.
The ball may well be in Australia’s court. If they want their national championship to prosper and be able to retain their country’s fastest rally drivers, they need to try and stop the exodus across the Tasman.
Working more closely with their near neighbours could be the first step. The second may be the rebirth of a Trans-Tasman championship with three events in either country.
With no guarantees of the WRC’s future in this region moving forward, rallying needs to work together to help itself, rather than alienating each other with an “us versus them” mentality.
We’re all in it for the benefit of rallying, and that should be the number one priority.