Australian rally stalwart Scott Pedder has confirmed he will return to the Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) this month for The Middle of Everywhere Gippsland Rally.
While the fourth round of the ARC season will be Pedder’s fourth national event in two years, his return will be significantly different than the previous three, with the 2014 ARC champion leasing a Race Torque-prepared Skoda Fabia R5 for the 2-day endurance format event.
The Skoda is the same one that Shane van Gisbergen drove to a remarkable second place in his ARC debut at last year’s Netier National Capital Rally, as well as being the same type of car Pedder enjoyed a memorable FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) stint in during the 2016 season – the highlight being a WRC2 stage win and 4th WRC2 Outright in Portugal.
Not only will the experienced Victorian have top-spec machinery underneath him in Gippsland, but he has also secured the services of a world-class co-driver, with the ever-successful Glenn Macneall returning to the ARC to call the notes.
Despite showing signs of speed, including running in the top 3 after the first few stages in Gippsland last year, Pedder failed to finish his last 3 ARC events piloting his ageing 2014 Championship-winning Renault Clio R3.
“I have done a few ARC rounds over the past two years in the Clio, but this one is different because we are in an outright specification car for the first time in seven years, so I am quite pumped,” Pedder said.
“You can never guarantee total reliability, and you still have to drive it well and be 100 per cent committed, but I am confident we will have the right setup from the start having learned a bit in 2016. It’s an amazing car and the RaceTorque team, led by Lane Heenan certainly know their stuff and have the runs on the board, so it’s just a matter of dialling into it and trying to keep my ageing brain up to speed.
“I have some expectations for results, but that will purely depend on how quickly I can jump back into the car and get the feeling of it back. Hopefully some of the talent and muscle memory from seven years ago reappears.
“With that said, I have kept up with rallying and done some competitive miles at good speed, so we are going to give the best effort we can – but no doubt, I am 47-years-old and the reflexes aren’t as quick and certainly we haven’t had consistent seat time like many of the our opposition.
“We don’t have to worry about championship honours, so there won’t be that pressure – just get in, have some fun and see what happens.
“I have a test in Perth in a couple of weeks, as well as the pre-event testing, so by the time we are lining up for the opening stage of the rally, I will have done about 100km of testing in it, which is more than I did before Portugal in 2016. We will be ready.”
As for Macneall, the West Australian is considered one of the most successful Australian co-drivers to ever compete in the international rally scene, with hundreds of starts to his name.
Macneall’s wealth of experience at the highest level of the sport spans more than 20 years and includes WRC stints with Gaurav Gill of India and Japan’s Toshihiro Arai, as well as Aussie international star Chris Atkinson for the Subaru Factory team. Teamed with Atkinson and Subaru, Macneall secured multiple WRC outright event podiums and numerous outright stage wins against the world’s best drivers and teams.
Adding to his decorated career have been many rallies in both the ARC and the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship alongside Australian drivers such as Dean Herridge, Brendan Reeves and Bradley Markovic.
“I am thrilled to have Glenn with me – he is arguably Australia’s most successful co-driver and is such a well credentialled competitor” Pedder added.
“I admire him a lot as he’s been around for such a long time, and honestly the speeds that he has seen in his time, I doubt we will be able to match, but it will be great to have him.
“That was important for me coming back. If I was to get into a car like the Skoda, which is the best of its type in the world, as well as aim for a good result, from experience it is critical to tick all the boxes to allow pure focus on driving.”
“This is a sport that never leaves your system, and I knew this opportunity might happen, but to have Glenn and Race Torque and to be doing it in Victoria will be pretty special. I can’t wait.”
Entries for the fourth round of the ARC season are still open for another two weeks and interested crews can enter via the Motorsport Australia Member Portal.
The Middle of Everywhere Gippsland Rally takes place in and around the forests of Heyfield and Gippsland on 25-27 August.