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Sports star of the week: Jackson Clendon

Clendon’s rise is no surprise. PHOTO/FILE

Jackson Clendon is turning heads with an outstanding class win at the Rally of Whangarei. CHRIS COGDALE caught up with the national championship leader.

Jackson Clendon has been racing competitively for only three years and is already turning the knowledgeable heads in NZ motorsport circles.

So much so that he was named one of eight rising stars to attend the NZ Elite Motor Sport Academy – an intense week-long boot camp at Otago University that focuses on everything outside the car to make a well-rounded driver, from fitness, nutrition, sponsorship, and promotion.

The 19-year-old’s talent was on show at the weekend, with a class victory in the Rally of Whangarei in his first competitive drive in his ‘new’ Ford Fiesta Rally4.

Even more impressive was that the former Junior WRC car had only arrived in Masterton a week before the start of the rally, and Clendon and co-driver Andrew Brooks had only several runs on a Kiriwhakapapa farm track to get used to the left-hand drive.

Clendon’s rise is no surprise given his rallying pedigree. His second cousin was the late great Possum Bourne, a world championship driver, who was killed while driving on the Road to the Sky circuit near Wanaka in 2003, and his parents Pete and Kath competed at national championship level in the early 2000s.

Clendon first competed as a 16-year-old student at Wairarapa College and grabbed attention with class victories in rally sprints and hill climbs.

That included overcoming a major scare on the first run at rally sprint near Otorohanga when he lost his brakes to win his class from a strong field.

Next came his first rally start in the 2020 rally Bay of Plenty. Clendon dominated the two-wheel drive category, winning by 32 seconds, and finishing 14th overall in his Ford Fiesta ST in a strong 51-car field.

Clendon’s first national championship event was the 2021 Rally Otago, but the 15-year-old Fiesta was plagued with mechanical problems, and he failed to finish the rally or any other national event during the year.

That prompted Clendon to look overseas for a competitive car and he settled on the Fiesta Rally4 from Poland.

In the meantime, he leased a slow Toyota Vitz for this year’s Rally of Otago, and for the first time he completed a national championship rally.

Outside rallying, Clendon works as a builder’s apprentice with Mike Preston Construction. Otherwise, his focus is on getting quicker in the new Fiesta Rally4, a scary prospect for his fellow drivers, while he has a long-term goal of racing in Europe.

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