This month’s Make Smoking History Forest Rally will see a handful of drivers make their RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) debut.
While many of them have been working towards their first run on the national rally stage, for Alex Rullo, he has had less preparation than most with the event to provide a steep learning curve.
That’s not to say the Western Australian has never driven on gravel before – in fact he campaigned a Hyundai Excel on gravel at a local event around seven years ago when he first entered motorsport, with Alister McRae his co-driver and teacher.
Rullo has gained plenty of experience in the sport since then, which included a three-year stint in the Repco Supercars Championship, both as a full time and endurance co-driver
For his return to rally, the 21-year-old will have an accomplished co-driver alongside, with 2018 ARC runner-up Steve Glenney locked in for the round.
Behind the wheel of a Race Torque Engineering prepared 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, Rullo was aware of the massive task awaiting him.
“I am pretty stoked to get to do this because I have always wanted to try gravel rallying since I started racing cars and I feel I am returning to where I first started,” Rullo said.
“It’s going to be a massive learning experience and I think the biggest challenge will be learning how to listen to Steve and understand the notes because I am not the best listener and it’s all foreign to me.
“We were stressed before this because there weren’t many experienced co-drivers available but then we were able to lock in Steve which was a fantastic get.
“He has been really good with getting me up to speed and has sent through heaps of information that will help me understand how he calls so we’re on the same page.
“As for the car itself, it only just arrived in Perth so I will finally get the chance to check it out before doing a test session this week.
“It’s all very fresh and we won’t have had much preparation, but we will definitely be making the most of the Thursday testing prior to the start of the event.
“I have an extremely talented co-driver and I know the car is very quick, so I think I am the weak point, but I am still looking forward to it.”
Despite his lack of experience on gravel, Rullo is looking forward to the challenge and has little expectation of the event.
“The goal will just be to finish and keep it clean if I can,” Rullo added.
“I think we will be slower paced towards the start of the event but hopefully I can improve as the rally goes on. There are smaller stages that go through Speedway, including the EROAD Power Stage, so maybe I can have a crack because I can prepare well for that.
“It’s going to be quite the task, but watching Shane van Gisbergen’s onboards, he seemed to have got the hang of it pretty quickly and was comfortable with the car and conditions.
“Obviously he is on another level and it didn’t surprise me that he was able to adapt so quickly as he is just built differently, but it was a little encouraging to see a circuit driver do so well.
“With that said, it doesn’t change my expectation about the round as the whole ARC field is super competitive and I have a massive respect for all of them and what they do.
“I am just looking forward to the process and to the massive challenge ahead of me. I am feeling good about having a crack.”
The Make Smoking History Forest Rally takes place around the forests of Bunbury and Nannup in Western Australia on 20-22 May.