Although COVID-19 was difficult for many people around the country, it also gave many the opportunity to re-evaluate their lives and the inspiration to try new things.
And that’s exactly what happened to West Australian Daniel Gonzalez, who finished second in the 2019 GC Marine Australian Prototype Series and entered 2020 with the hopes of going one step better.
However, Gonzalez never got that opportunity as the world was turned upside down and WA was closed off to the rest of the country for a long period of time.
Like many, Gonzalez was forced to look elsewhere to get his motorsport fix and when the opportunity to sponsor young gun Max McRae in the Motorsport Australia WA Rally Championship (WARC) came about, it opened up Gonzalez into a whole new world and one that would change his life forever.
Fast forward two years to the present day where Gonzalez is now the proud owner of the Skoda Fabia R5 John O’Dowd steered to multiple state titles and locked in to make his RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) debut.
After a highly successful season opener in Canberra earlier this month, the championship heads out west for the first time since 2019 where Gonzalez will get the chance to see Australia’s best crews up close and personal.
The Make Smoking History Forest Rally will be just his third start on gravel and just his second in the Skoda, having only been obtained in four days before the WARC season opener in Bakers Hill.
Despite Bakers Hill being his second event ever, Gonzalez still impressed many with his raw talent, finishing fourth overall and even winning a stage outright.
And the 43-year-old was relishing the opportunity to continue his journey in the rallying and go up against the best in Australia.
“It all happened kind of quickly. I was expecting to do another year in the APS but then COVID happened and it was difficult to get out of the state, so we looked at other options,” Gonzalez said.
“Since discovering rallying, it’s been awesome, and I was instantly hooked after I got a little taste in an old Porsche 911. Then the opportunity to get the Skoda came and we thought why not, which made me realise that dirt rally was where it was at and it became my favourite.
“I had spent 12 months around the right crews, which included being coached by Alistair McRae, who had been training me for ages, as well as K-Tec Rally and Race torque supporting me and Realty Lane for making it all possible.
“But the real challenge was doing that first round in the WARC because we got the car on the Tuesday of the round, did our first test in the car on the Friday and then we were competing by the Saturday.
“We surprised ourselves with the pace towards the end of the event and the fact that we won a stage – considering that we hadn’t reccied the stages either because we didn’t know how to write the right notes.
“We were straight in the deep end and my co-driver Caleb Ash and I had brilliant chemistry so it was awesome. Now we just need to continue improving.
“Because we did so well in that first event and that the ARC was coming, we thought we might as well sign up for it and see how we go against the best.”
The debutant has very little expectation on his weekend and will be looking to just finish the rally with the hope of one day contesting more rounds.
“We don’t have an expectation outside of finishing and I guess that will determine where we go from there.
“Even if the results aren’t there, I intend to one day go for a full ARC campaign because rally is wicked, and I have fallen in love. It’s a whole different sport and I am addicted to it already.
“I am trying to learn as much as I can. I am watching on-boards and even watched all the Netier National Capital Rally highlights on 7mate and the Power stage episode on 7Plus when it was happening.
“Honestly, I am just trying to build the confidence so I can compete as fast as I can but in a safe manner and I just need more seat time.
“Having a beautiful car like the Skoda, which when it clicks, it’s a dream to drive and having the influence of Alistair is phenomenal. I am just so excited.”
The Make Smoking History Forest Rally takes place in Western Austalia on 21-23 May.