This marks a major step for the pair – Higgs is an experienced rally driver but almost solely on tarmac, while Kirra turned just sixteen last week.
“This year will be my first full season on dirt, so that’s an exciting challenge, and for Kirra, well all I can say is she’s an incredibly determined young lady and we’re really excited about what 2016 holds for us,” Higgs said.
Campaigning a Subaru Impreza WRX that Higgs himself built, the new pair had a troubled run at last year’s Scouts Rally SA, but determined to bounce back announced their intentions early to contest the full ARC this year.
“It wasn’t the best rally for us, that’s true,” Higgs admitted. “If anything though it gave me that determination to come back and do it properly this year. We’ve negotiated a deal to have our car serviced by Dean Herridge’s team at Maximum Motorsport for WA, and hopefully we can do something with them for the rest of the season too.”
“Technically speaking I’m pretty new to gravel rallying, I’ve maybe finished 15 stages, and my background is definitely on tarmac. But I see incredible value in doing the ARC, you get a lot more time in the seat than I’d say you get on tarmac rallies and to me that’s important.”
“My aim is to finish every stage this year. It’s a pretty ambitious goal, but that’s the challenge I’m setting myself. I’m not out there to be the fastest, I’m out there to get to the end and after this season then I’ll work out what I want to achieve in 2017 and beyond,” added Higgs.
But what about sixteen-year-old Kirra, how does she see the season ahead and how does someone still at high school balance the demands of education with the thrill of being a co-driver?
“It’s going to be a massive challenge, that’s for sure!” she laughed. “Fortunately I go to a school that’s incredibly supportive of the kids who play sports, we have some junior Olympians, and they see my involvement with rallying the same way.”
“I’ve grown up around rallying though, my dad has been a State competitor for more than twenty years, so I remember being in the service park as a kid and going out to spectator points to see the cars.”
So how did she become a navigator then and perhaps not a driver? “The boys in my family kept saying ‘get in the car, be my co-driver’ and I guess I gave in in the end, but it’s amazing, now that I’m doing it I couldn’t imagine a more incredible way to be involved in rallying,” she explained.
“I’ve also received some incredible support, we spent some time with Rhiannon and Alex Gelsomino before Christmas and they taught both Chris and I so much! And we’ve also tried to spend an hour every week practicing writing pace notes on the gravel roads near home.”
“I wouldn’t say I’m fully prepared for the challenges this year, but I’m excited to face them, I can’t wait!” Kirra added.
Higgs and Kirra will line up for the Quit Forest Rally alongside their Australian Rally Championship rivals from the 22nd to 24th April.