Having fun attacking gravel roads

"Maximum attack" ... Dunedin rally driver Richie Chadwick and his 1997 Toyota Levin. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

In a series, motoring reporter Shawn McAvinue spends five minutes talking with Dunedin motorsport enthusiasts about their passion for their form of racing.

Five minutes with rally driver Richie Chadwick, of East Taieri.

Q When did you get into the sport?

Me and my wife Rachel – who also drives – bought a 1984 Toyota Corolla in 2014. It’s a bit of a nanna-mobile. People don’t expect to go fast, but it does.

Q How did you get into motorsport?

I met Rachel and she did kart racing and I got into that when I was about 18 and raced on-and-off for about five years before buying the Corolla.

Q Who is the better rally driver between you and Rachel?

Me – which makes up for her kicking my ass for years in karting.

Q What rally events do you compete in?

Every Otago Sports Car Club event and other South Island rallies.

Q How have you done?

We’ve done well for the budget we are running on. We’ve had a lot of class wins (1300cc to 1600cc two-wheel-drive) and we got fifth overall in the Catlins Rally in 2016 – a good result for a 1600cc car.

Q Is it an expensive sport?

Yes. We do it as cheaply as we can. I’m an engineer, which helps because I get to save a lot of money by doing everything myself.

Q I hear you took home some silverware at the 2020 Catlins Rally.

Yes, for being the first Otago driver home I won the Glen Shirlaw Memorial Trophy. We’ve won it four times.

Q When did you buy your Toyota Levin rally car?

At the end of 2018. We bought it thinking it would be faster than the Corolla – and it isn’t,But it’s more reliable.

Q Do you have a long-term goal?

No, just to keep having fun.

Q What is the most fun aspect of the sport?

Maximum attack on gravel roads.

Q Have you had any hairy moments?

Yup, I had a big crash in the Corolla at Waipori Gorge in the 2018 Otago Rally.

Q Talk me through the crash.

We were having mechanical issues with the gearbox – we had second and fifth. That was playing with my head. If the gearbox was going I would have changed up a gear and back down a gear but it wasn’t, so I held it in second and we ran wide and clipped a bank, which spun us around and chucked us down into the gorge on the other side of the road.

Q Did you walk away from it?

Yeah, I was fine but the car was a bit second-hand.

Q Most memorable moment for the right reasons?

Our first rally win – the spring rally in Geraldine in 2015. We were new to the sport and no-one expected us to win.

Q If money was no object, what is your dream car?

My Corolla – the granny-mobile – with some really cool gear in it. It has character and it’s the car we started in and we’ve had really good success in it.

Q Why didn’t you bring it along for the photoshoot?

It’s broken – the motor’s hurt.

Q Is it a social sport?

It’s more relaxed than karting because you’re not sharing a track – it’s just you against the clock.