Scholarship gives driver his big chance

Ready to rally . . . Otago Rally Scholarship recipient Ian Warren, of Dunedin, is set to drive his 1987 Suzuki Swift GTi in the rally this weekend. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

A Dunedin panelbeater is set to realise a “bucket list” experience by competing in the Otago Rally this weekend.

Ian Warren (25), of Caversham, won the Otago Rally Scholarship, which helps him to compete in the two-day event in his Suzuki Swift GTi.

The scholarship provides free entry to the Otago International Classic Rally, worth about $1200, and $500 cash.

The $500 would pay for the fireproof underwear needed to comply with MotorSport New Zealand safety rules, he said.

The rally was a “bucket list” experience for him, he said.

“If it wasn’t for the scholarship, I wouldn’t be doing the event, so it’s awesome.”

Scholarship recipients have to be under 26 – the age he reaches next month.

To enter the classic class, a car has to be two-wheel drive and built before 1987.

Warren has never driven in the rally before but had been a navigator for his father, Alan Warren, who raced a Mark II Ford Escort.

The sport had “always been part of the family”.

His father will help service the Suzuki during the rally and childhood friend Cameron Edgar will be his co-driver.

The scholarship includes a set of pace notes, which describe the rally route, but Warren has decided not to use them.

“I like the challenge of reading the roads.”

His job – he works for Action Panelbeating in central Dunedin – helps him maintain his car.

Past damage to the car included a crash on the first stage of an Otago Sports Car Club rallysprint.

“I put it upside down into a tree in Whare Flat.”

A field of 115 cars and drivers, including World Rally Championship competitors Hayden Paddon (NZ) and Mads Ostberg (Norway) , will compete in the Otago Rally, which is effectively three rallies in one – National Championship, Otago Classic 4WD and Otago Classic.

Paddon will compete in the National Championship rally, the first round of the New Zealand Championship.

The rally includes stages at Kuri Bush, Waipori Gorge, McIntosh Rd and Whare Flat, as well as stages near Dunback and Middlemarch.