Jackson Clendon on his final run at the FIA Asia-Pacific Continental Final. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Rising Masterton rally star Jackson Clendon is not giving up on his dream of racing in Europe after narrowly missing out on a place in an elite FIA programme.
Clendon has returned from competing in the FIA Rally Star Asia-Pacific continental final at the Madras International Circuit, Chennai, South India, where he was the fastest on the track in the decisive 12-driver final.
However, the 19-year-old was overlooked for the 2023 FIA Rally Star Season, because of “outside-the-car” factors.
The FIA Rally Star programme is based in Europe and includes six fully funded events in an M Sport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally3, as well as extensive driver coaching, and physical and mental training, with the top four drivers earning a chance to contest the 2024 Junior World Rally Championship.
Clendon admitted he was gutted not to be selected to go to Europe by the expert panel, after some impressive driving.
“The main decision was down to the team boss who would be running the team, and I think he just thought he would work better with the guy who did win [Australian Taylor Gill],” Clendon said.
“They were really happy with the driving, and they were impressed with my commitment, bravery, and car control.
“It was just outside the car, and they didn’t really say and were very vague about why I wasn’t picked as the winner.
“It’s hard because it’s just more [about] your personality and you can’t really work on that.”
The continental final featured drivers from the Asia-Pacific region, who competed over three days in similar cross-kart vehicles on timed stages, as well as fitness tests, and interviews.
Clendon found the early stages difficult, but finally found his groove, and was the quickest of the 12 drivers on the final day.
“They were tight first and second gear stuff and slow speed, and it was on tarmac for the first two days, so it was a bit tricky for me because I haven’t really competed on tarmac and it’s hot, and then it would rain for 10 minutes out of nowhere so the track was quite mixed, there were some high grip spots and then there were some really wet spots,” he said.
The talented Clendon will now turn his attention to getting his Ford Fiesta Rally4, which was badly damaged when he rolled it during the Rally South Canterbury in June, back on the road in time for the start of the 2023 NZ Rally Championship at Rally Otago in April.
“The goal now is to focus on the New Zealand championship next year and try and get some partners and sponsors and go overseas to Europe myself and do the junior world championship myself. But it’s an expensive operation to go over there and compete.”
In the meantime, Clendon hopes to pick up drives for some events over the summer, and he plans to work on his fitness in preparation for a serious tilt at the national championship.