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Defending two-wheel-drive rally champion Matt Summerfield heads to this weekend's International Rally of Whangarei fresh from Motorsport New Zealand's Elite Academy and 'inspired' for a good performance.
The 18-year-old from Rangiora has been looking forward to this event all season, particularly as it offers a rare opportunity to further develop his pace-note system. After attending the week-long Academy course at Otago University in Dunedin he is further inspired with the new skills he picked up.
"Rally Whangarei is one of only two events we get to do all year that allow us to go over the roads twice beforehand to make our pace-notes. That means we can go faster on the rally because we get that opportunity to check and refine our notes on the second pass."
All New Zealand championship events except Whangarei and Rally of New Zealand permit competitors to drive over the roads once before the rally to write their pace-notes. That also puts newcomers like Matt at a disadvantage to those who have contested the events in the past and can spend the time just refining their information.
"This is my first year making my own pace-notes so we're starting from scratch. With two passes beforehand we can check these notes and improve them. I if it was a normal national rally we'd have to wait until next year."
Along with the opportunity to make better pace-notes, Summerfield believes having attended the Academy will help his personal performance not only at Whangarei but as he furthers his career.
"It was a really tough experience but I got so much out of it. I can't thank all the academy people enough for the time and effort they gave us. The whole experience has me buzzing," said Summerfield.
The program is run by the NZ Academy of Sport South and the Physical Education School at Otago University. It focuses on physical fitness, nutrition, promotional abilities, media skills, psychometric and mental performance. Among the experiences Matt enjoyed most was competing for 45 minutes in a simulator at 40-degrees, 60% humidity and in full race gear.
"Everything from the physical tests to learning more about focusing on my goals, it has taught me so much. I'm fortunate to have been one of the nine chosen to attend this year's Academy course," he added.
Summerfield won the Kiwi 2 (2WD) New Zealand championship last year in his Castrol-backed Skoda Fabia RS Turbo, the country's only diesel-powered rally car. He is looking for a good performance at Whangarei.
"The roads are fast and flowing which suits me and the car. And I just love the international flavour there; it's a great event. I can't wait."
The International Rally of Whangarei is also a round of the Asia-Pacific championship and has attracted drivers from nine countries. Competitors are allowed to make their pace-notes tomorrow (Thursday) while the two-day rally starts on Saturday after a ceremonial start in downtown Whangarei on Friday, July 15th. The rally covers 300km over gravel roads, split into 16 high-speed special stages.