Kiwi rally pairing Dave Holder and Jason Farmer make their debut at the Tour de Corse this week, facing their first-ever tarmac rally as the second round of their 2018 FIA Junior World Rally Championship campaign.
Dubbed the Rally of 10,000 Corners, the 5-8 April French WRC round is famous for its continuously twisting roads and long special stages – including one that’s just over 55 kilometres in length – snaking back and forth across the island of Corsica.
The contrast to the pair’s first JWRC round in the Swedish snow couldn’t be more marked, but Holder feels he has more realistic expectations of the challenges ahead this time around.
“It’s obviously so different to Sweden with quite a different driving style on tarmac and that’s going to be a good challenge in itself,” says the 29-year-old mechanical engineer from Mt Maunganui.
“A nice, clean finish is the goal,” he says of the three-day, 12-stage, 333 km rally which kicks off with shakedown on Thursday 5 April. “It’s going to be a tough event with double the number of corners of any event I’ve done before, so there’s a lot for us both to take onboard. I think I have a more realistic approach to how we’ll go in Corsica compared to Sweden, taking into account the calibre of some of the tarmac drivers in our group. We want to get to the finish ramp and tick that big box.”
Holder adds: “One aspect I’m unsure of is how the road condition will change with the second pass of the field on repeated stages. Dirt and gravel can be dragged into the tarmac and change the stage considerably.”
Holder and Farmer pilot a Ford Fiesta R2 EcoBoost rally car, identical to 13 other JWRC crews, and supplied and run by JWRC category managers M-Sport Poland. The Kiwi pair are the first New Zealanders to contest the Junior WRC category.
With the majority of the rally being 30-plus kilometre stages, brake temperatures could be a concern for some drivers. However, Holder hopes his light touch with the Fiesta’s brake pedal will stand him in good stead. “I just want to stay focused and consistent during each stage. I think we’re generally better prepared this time around; some small seat changes have made the car more comfortable for us and we’ve added some in-car accessories to store our gear – small things, but they all help things to run smoother in the car.”
Holder has been doing all he can to prepare for the unique challenge of Corsica’s endless corners. He’s spent time at two race circuits, piloting a left-hand-drive Mini loaned by race driver Scott O’Donnell.
“I had some time at Highlands which was great, then the best part of a day at Teretonga running on the access roads rather than the big, wide race track itself, thinking it was more representational of what we’re going to. It was a great day for it, because it poured with rain, then dried out, giving changeable conditions that were good to experience. Also, like the Fiesta we run in the JWRC, the Mini is small with similar power and importantly left-hand-drive too.”
Although there has been many technical aspects to prepare for the event, Holder has also been working hard on the necessary budget for the M-Sport run, arrive-and-drive category. The team released a PledgeMe campaign - https://www.pledgeme.co.nz/projects/5527 - with various rewards at different donation amounts designed to encourage rally fans to get behind their efforts in the JWRC. Holder has also been travelling the country personally meeting with potential investors as part of a private shareholding scheme.
Holder announced a new partnership with specialist transport logistics company, HW Richardson Group, just prior to his departure for France. “A big thanks to HWR Group CEO Brent Esler and the whole team for welcoming us on board,” says Holder, who like HWR Group, is originally from Southland. “We can’t wait to get involved more closely with some of the well-known companies within the group.”
Holder acknowledges the continued support of Mt Wheel Alignment, Chicane Racewear, Magnum Compliance, Farmline Machinery, Mt Bikes, KPMG Tauranga, Cooney Lees Morgan, Bell Booth, Thurlow Building & Construction, Monit Rally Computers and Amplified Customs.
More information about Holder’s world rallying journey can be found on a new website, www.daveholderrally.com or their social media channels: https://www.facebook.com/DaveHolderRally/, https://twitter.com/DaveHolderRally and https://www.instagram.com/daveholderrally/.