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Fiesta time: Clendon raring to go

Jackson Clendon in his new Fiesta Rally4. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

MOTORSPORT

CHRIS COGDALE
[email protected]

Promising Masterton rally driver Jackson Clendon had a week to remember last week.

Not only was the 19-year-old apprentice builder named in the Elite Motorsport Academy of New Zealand, he also had his first drive in his ‘new’ Ford Fiesta Rally4 hot off the boat from Poland.

The World Rally ‘specced’ Fiesta is the only one of its type in New Zealand, arriving in Masterton on Friday night, in time for Clendon’s support team to prepare the car for its first competitive outing in this weekend’s Rally of Whangarei.

The one-litre car, powered by a three-cylinder turbo engine, has raced five rallies in Europe, including last year’s Junior World Rally Championship, and Clendon will contest the national under two-litre front-wheel drive class in it.

Jackson Clendon in his first run in the new Fiesta Rally4. PHOTO/WILLIAM BROTHWELL

The team set up the ‘new weapon’ on Saturday for Clendon to test it over several runs on a farm road at Kiriwhakapapa, north of Masterton.

He said the Fiesta is a big step up from the Toyota Vitz he leased for last month’s opening championship round, the Rally of Otago.

“It has three times the torque, two times the horsepower, the suspension is a lot better, there’s a lot more development in the suspension, and it has a sequential gearbox, so there’s no clutch, and it tops out at about 180kmh in fifth gear,” Clendon said.

Another aspect the talented driver will have to adapt to is the left-hand drive set-up, although he wasn’t anticipating any problems, having previously driven a cross car, where the driver sits in the middle, and driven left-hand drive, in video games.

Clendon, co-driver Andrew Brooks from Dannevirke, and his team headed to Whangarei yesterday to prepare for this weekend’s round of the national championship, with the simple goal of finishing every stage.

“I’m not too concerned about finishing position at the moment. I’ll focus on that maybe later in the year but just learning how the car works, the team learning how the car works too, and the main goal will be just finishing.”

His long-term aim, however, is to compete on the international stage.

“I really want to be at the point where I’m driving the car to the limit, and because this car is an international car and they use it in Europe, the main goal is to learn this category of car and get adjusted to it and then go and compete in Europe in the junior categories, and that’s the sort of three-year plan.”

Part of that pathway is Clendon’s inclusion in the Elite Motorsport Academy, along with seven other aspiring motorsport stars, including fellow rally driver Robbie Stokes.

Clendon said the academy involves a week-long boot camp at Otago University in late June or early July, with a focus on everything outside the car to make a well-rounded driver.

“You’re looking at your strength training, nutrition, sponsorship, marketing, all sort of things outside of driving the car that could help someone in the future. It also comes with a 12-month follow-up, and they support you with different trainers so you can focus on any areas you need to improve on over the next 12 months.”

A bright future is ahead for the ambitious Clendon, who has rallying in his blood.

His parents Pete and Kath were regular competitors in the national championship in the early 2000s, and the late great Possum Bourne, was Pete’s first cousin.

“They’re my biggest supporters, and I wouldn’t be doing it without them,” Clendon said.

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