When Ben Calder lines up at the start of the BWEZ Super Special Stage at the Pedders Eureka Rush on Saturday evening in just his fourth rally event, the South Australian won’t be taking the event lightly.
The tarmac rally regular will join the CAMS Australian Rally Championship for the rest of 2019, eager to see if he can translate his strong form in tarmac rally on to Australia’s best gravel roads.
And the Calder Wealth Management backed Subaru Impreza WRX STi driver will have some handy experience sitting alongside him.
Calder has secured the services of ARC regular Steve Glenney, who had previously been calling notes for rookie Luke Anear in the Ford Fiesta R5.
For Eureka, Anear will instead be joined by Andy Sarandis, who had himself taken on co-driver roles for Glenney in 2018.
Calder has confirmed he will compete in the remaining three rounds of the ARC – starting with this weekend’s Pedders Eureka Rush in Ballarat with a view to competing in a full Championship in the future.
“Our plan is to do the rest of the ARC events for the year,” Calder said.
“I’m very busy with my businesses and with a young family – we’ve had quite a busy end to the year, so really for me it’s to see how I go – I expect to be in the mid-pack, we’ll see how we go and try to get up the curve quickly. If it goes well this year, then I’d be looking to compete in a full Australian Rally Championship going forward and see if it’s for me.”
Despite his relative inexperience on gravel, Calder tasted early success, claiming third in his debut rally event in the South Australian Rally Championship over a year ago.
Calder knows the importance of a strong team, and in particular having a co-driver of Glenney’s abilities helping him make the transition from tarmac to gravel.
“Steve and I have had a bit of success together in tarmac rallying, so it’s probably Steve that’s convinced me I’m ready to have a crack at gravel rallying,” Calder said.
“The level of confidence you get with Steve in the car is great – I drive faster and I feel safer,
“You need to surround yourself with the best people you can. Having a good team around you and trying to be prepared as you can. Regulations, time controls are much stricter (in the ARC) than in tarmac events – but I like that.
“It’s all very new for me, quite intimidating but quite exciting at the same time.”
As for the machine the pair will be guiding through the forests, Calder has secured his 2005 Subaru from Craig Brooks, who currently heads up Orange Motorsport Engineering, Subaru do Motorsport’s factory team.
“It’s a good thing, it’s got all the right stuff in it and I’ve refreshed it all since I bought it off ‘Brooksy’,” he said.
In more positive signs for rallying in Australia, Calder said it was the growing interest in the championship had enticed him to compete.
“Everyone seems to be interested in getting back into the gravel rally that I’m talking to. It seems to be starting to get a bit of a resurgence, the ARC, which is exciting,” Calder said.
“It’s motor sport – I have the addiction like everyone else who is doing it.
“You want to do more and you want to get better and get faster without compromising your health.”
Calder and Glenney are among of host of competitors taking on the Pedders Eureka Rush in Ballarat on 24-25 August.
Spectators can catch all the action for free, including the BWEZ Super Special Stage in Ballarat on Saturday night, before a full day of rallying on Sunday.
Catch all the action on rally.com.au and our social media channels over the course of the weekend.