Well what a year 2018 has been, consisting of 7 trips to Europe, 5 WRC rallies, 15,000kms of overseas driving....and most importantly for me, hundreds
of new food experiences, both good and bad!
When we were accepted into the Junior World Rally Championship, we knew things were stacked against us coming from the other side of the world, not forgetting we still needed to raise $400,000 NZD and competing against 15 of the best young drivers from around the world often in their own backyard on events that were all new to us. The five rounds consisted of Rally Sweden (a full snow/ice event), Rally Corsica (French tarmac), Rally Portugal (rough gravel), Rally Finland (big jumps) and finally Rally Turkey (incredibly rough gravel).
Arriving in Poland for our first test event of the year, it's fair to say the -10-degree temperatures and snow were a shock to the system. Although this was probably emphasized by the fact the airline misplaced our bags and we were walking around in shorts and jandals for a day, so it's fair to say we were getting looked at very strangely! Most of the events we competed in were certainly warmer, but our European competitors soon worked out that kiwi's and jandals go hand in hand!
Amongst the challenges of rallying in foreign countries was obviously the added complication of finding gluten free food. This aside, still one of my favourite experiences throughout the year was walking into a supermarket and trying new foods. However my GF travellers tip #1 - unless you're fluent on the local language it always pays to have google translate on hand to read ingredients, otherwise it becomes a game of Russian roulette with your bowels....which leads me to GF travellers tip #2 - always carry a couple of Euro coins in your pocket, public toilets aren't free in most countries!
The Schär brand of gluten free products is #1 throughout Europe, it's generally easy to find in most supermarkets etc., not to mention there's a number of tasty treats in the range. Still nothing beats our very own Vogel’s NZ for bread, so we always took three or four loaves in our luggage for that taste of home!
The GF meals on planes weren't terrible but we found that sometimes availability could be unreliable if there weren't enough meals, despite pre-ordering when booking the flight. Plus, for someone of my size and appetite there just simply wasn't enough, especially on an 18 hour flight. I soon learnt that taking extra food on our flights was a must. So I regularly took a couple of extra snacks.... i.e. two pies, five chicken sandwiches and a huge container of pre-cooked gluten-free pasta. The challenge with the pies was obviously how to heat them up, so my strategy upon boarding all longhaul flights was to pick a flight attendant and become their best friend! Usually this new relationship ended in my pies being heated in the plane ovens after the rest of the meal service was done and brought to me on a first class tray!
Food challenges aside, there were plenty of lessons on events including; how to remove windscreen (Portugal), how to jump a Ford Fiesta 30 metres in length and 2 metres high (Finland), how to survive in 37 degree ambient temperatures and most importantly working out how to communicate with our Polish service crew!
Our highlights of the year included a podium finish at Rally Portugal, stage and day wins at Rally Turkey (before punctures ended our overall result) and getting 80,000 social media views on a particularly wild driving moment at Rally Finland.
But for now our attention is on preparing a return to the WRC in 2019. A special thanks to all our sponsors, supporters and shareholders for an incredible journey.