Sanders pleased with new life down under

Having made his Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) debut earlier this year, Gandewa Sanders is enjoying life down under.

The 21-year-old moved to Australia from Indonesia at the start of this year after being accepted into Monash University and has used the opportunity of living abroad to continue his rally career.

Sanders already has a solid amount of experience rallying in his home country, having won the third tier of the Indonesian Rally Championship’s Front Wheel Drive class in 2021, before winning the class outright last year, while his team, Pulang Menang, won the teams’ title.

With Australia’s roads a lot different to that of Indonesia, Sanders’ goal in his first year of the ARC was just to get accustomed with the roads and the ARC community.

“After doing two years of rallying in Indonesia, my team and I were wanting to advance my rally career – we were looking at either going to Europe or coming down to Australia,” Sanders said.

Photos: DMAC Photography and Dakar Press Team Australia

“Once I got accepted into Monash University to study my Masters, Australia obviously became the clear choice – especially as I had some mutual connections with Justin Dowel and Brendan Reeves already.

“I had heard that the roads in Australia were quite unique and that every event in the Australian championship was different, so we made the decision that this year’s main purpose would be to learn the events and to test the water.

“This is the first time I have raced outside Indonesia and learnt a new car, which is completely different to the previous cars I have had such as a Polaris SXS buggy, Toyota Yaris and Mitsubishi Evo.

“Now having been here, I can truly see what people meant when they said each event has different characteristics – not like Indonesia where all the roads are the same.”

Since making the move to Melbourne, the Indonesian has had a solid start to his ARC career, having contested the opening two rounds of the 2023 season behind the wheel of the M-Sport built Ford Fiesta Rally3 car.

With the experienced Rhianon Gelsomino by his side for his ARC debut in March’s Buckby ŠKODA Rally Launceston, Sanders finished 12th and 10th respectively in each of the event’s two heats.

The Indonesian then had another promising result in May’s Make Smoking History Forest Rally alongside Kim Bessel, where he finished 16th overall out of a field of 33 in Heat 1 and 17th in Heat 2, while picking up two P8s in the White Wolf Constructions ARC Production Cup.

With Accent Benchtops Rally Queensland offering a new type of surface and Gelsomino returning to the co-driver seat, Sanders was confident of improving again.

“Going into Launceston, I was very nervous as it was my first time rallying outside of Indonesia and I only had one day of testing in the car prior to that event,” Sanders explained.

“I barely knew the car, so I had no goals at all apart from getting to know the Fiesta and the community, so I was very fortunate to have someone like Rhiannon by my side, who made sure everything was okay.

“The event gave us a good start for the rest of year and then we went to WA, which in comparison to Tasmania, was light and day, with that marble surface being so slippery.

“I had never driven on a surface like that before, and even though I felt more ready for WA, it kind of put me back on the learning curve as it was so different.

“With that said, I am very pleased with how my first two rounds have gone and I am really excited for Queensland – especially now that my confidence is growing by the day.

“Having the support of Justin and Activ Rallysport, Brendan who is coaching me at the moment and my uncle, family and the rest of the Pulang Menang team who are supporting me from Indonesia is really special and I thank them all.”

The Accent Benchtops Rally Queensland takes place in Gympie on 21-23 July.