Brendan Reeves returns to NZ Rally Champs
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There will be a new car and a new co-driver but no chance for an element of surprise when Australian rally driver Brendan Reeves looks for more New Zealand success later this month.
Reeves won the Rally of Coromandel round of the New Zealand Championship last year and has confirmed his return for this year's event.
The Victorian driver adds an international element to the August 26 rally, where Kiwi WRC star Hayden Paddon will make his first domestic appearance of 2017.
Reeves is again teaming with Andrew Hawkeswood's Force Motorsport operation and will debut a newly completed Mazda2 AP4 car at the Whitianga-based event.
Last year Reeves and his sister Rhianon Gelsomino drove the earlier-generation Force Motorsport Mazda2 to victory with an impressive charge that saw them fastest on five of the first six stages to race clear of their Kiwi rivals. This time Reeves will be teamed with Ben Searcy.
"Last year's rally was great fun and it completed a sequence of three wins for us that began with Canberra and South Australia," says Reeves.
"I really like the NZRC format with one day of recce and one day of racing. It works well for cost and time."
So far in 2017, Reeves has contested just one Australian event but he isn't lacking for recent mileage.
"I'm doing driver training and tuition all the time," he says.
"And I came over a couple of weeks ago and Andrew and I tested the new car."
The latest Mazda2 AP4 car to emerge from the Force Motorsport facility has the 1.6-litre direct injection turbo engine, which is fully compliant with the 2019 version of the AP4 rules.
"We did the first test on low boost but the car felt really good. There are small suspension changes compared to Andrew's car and they seem to improve the car in the middle of the corner."
Reeves says his first goal is to once again enjoy the Coromandel gravel roads and the depth of competition in the New Zealand series.
"Our aim this year is first to have fun again. Hayden will be favourite and he's the benchmark and we'll see how close we can get to him.
"Force Motorsport have been a dream to work with and I'm looking forward to giving their newest AP4 car a good debut."
But before he sets out to compete against Paddon, Reeves becomes a key part of the Kiwi driver's support team at WRC Rally Germany (August 18-20) where he teams with John Kennard as the pace note "gravel" checking crew for Paddon and co-driver Seb Marshall.
"Seb and I worked together for Hayden and John in Corsica and now it's a different combination with John and I working checking the notes for Hayden and Seb," he says.
The Mahindra Coromandel Goldrush event is round four of six in the NZ Rally Championship, which is led by Rangiora driver Matt Summerfield (Subaru Impreza).
There are six gravel stages and one short tarmac spectator stage to challenge the crews on the Peninsula roads with 140km of competitive driving.