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Clendon chases European dream

Jackson Clendon [right] with co-driver Andrew Brooks and the Ford Fiesta Rally4 at the Rally of Whangarei earlier this year. PHOTOS/FILE

A drive in the world junior rally championship could be on the horizon for rising Masterton rally star Jackson Clendon.

The 19-year-old has secured entry into the FIA Rally Star Continental Final at the Madras International Circuit, Chennai, south India in four weeks.

Victory there would have the talented Clendon head to Europe next year for FIA Rally Star Training Season along with the winners from the European, Middle Eastern, African, North and South American finals, and the winner of the women’s final.

Clendon said the continental final was like a shootout competition among drivers from the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia and New Zealand, with drivers having qualified on an e-sports simulator, through autocross competitions, or as he did by wild card.

“I saw a few drivers in Australia got wild card entries through Motorsport Australia, so I enquired through Motorsport NZ about potentially getting a wild card entry to the event, and that’s how it happened,” Clendon said.

“I sent a CV, and they put that forward to the FIA, the world governing body running the competition, to see if I was the right sort of person for the competition, and they accepted it.”

The drivers compete over three days covering many aspects of rallying, including timed stages, fitness tests, and interviews.

They will all drive similar crosskart vehicles, which have a motorbike engine, a top speed of about 165kmh, and are very manoeuvrable with their gravel suspension.

Clendon is familiar with the open-wheeled single-seater, having tasted success in winning the Mini Pikes Peak Hillclimb, near Whanganui.

“I’ve driven a crosskart before, so I have an idea on how it’s going to go, and either way it’s going to be a pretty cool experience,” he said.

Clendon giving the Fiesta a test run.

Clendon is unsure how many drivers he will come up against in India, but expects six or seven Australians, as well as a strong Asian contingent, although he believes he is the only Kiwi.

The winner of the Asia-Pacific final will progress to the 2023 Rally Star Training Season, which includes six fully funded events in a M Sport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally3, as well as extensive driver coaching, and physical and mental training.

The top four drivers from 2023 will then have a chance to contest the 2024 Junior World Rally Championship.

“I’m not trying to overthink it too much,” Clendon said.

“[It’s a] massive opportunity for me, with this being the pathway I have always wanted to take. Really focused to do as well as possible.”

He is now working hard on his fitness before heading to Chennai on October 7, for the three days of competition from October 10-12.

Clendon’s potential was recognised earlier this year with his selection for the NZ Elite Motor Sport Academy – an intense week-long boot camp at Otago University which focused on everything outside the car to make a well-rounded driver, from fitness, mental preparation, nutrition, sponsorship, and promotion.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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