5 MINUTES WITH .... Dunedin rally driver Steven Thompson
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5 MINUTES WITH …. Dunedin rally driver Steven Thompson

Steven Thompson had a massive crash on the 2012 Otago Rally. Photo: Euan Cameron

Steven Thompson. Photo: Becky Ladbrook

Name: Steven Thompson – people call me Thomo

Age: 26

Marital status: In a relationship

Children: No

Occupation: Mechanic at Gordon Road Vehicle Services in Mosgiel, NZ

Place of birth: Dunedin

Where do you live: Mosgiel

Does your spouse / partner like rallying? She is completely new to motor racing, but seems to enjoy the day out

Any other hobbies? Not really, I’m a big fan of most sports but not very good at many of them. Gave up trying to play rugby at 21 years old after a few injuries

Favourites

Food: All

Drink: Beers – often too many

Sports person (other than rallying): Shane van Gisbergen. I think he is the ultimate race driver and would love to see him in a rally car some day. (Driving his father) Cheese’s Escort at the Otago Classic would be amazing

Holiday destination: Cromwell over summer is extremely nice. I haven’t been anywhere exciting overseas, other than the goldie (Gold Coast)

Photo: Becky Ladbrook

Starting out

How did you start out? Raced karts at national level until I was 17. Racing has been a family sport with both my sisters racing karts and Dad racing cars.

I bought my first rally car – a KP Starlet – during the first year of my apprenticeship. Rallied this car for a couple of years before purchasing a Datsun Sunny Coupe out of the North Island (which I promptly destroyed).

A big rebuild and a few more years in the Datsun. Currently building my new car, which will hopefully debut late this year – watch this space!

First driver / co-driver you sat with: My friend Jake Thomas navigated for me in my first rally, Lawrence 2010

First event: Milburn Hill Climb 2010

Which car club do you belong to? Otago Sports Car Club

Photo: Becky Ladbrook

Do you ever officiate on events? I am on our committee and help with event organisation

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Have you competed overseas? Where and when? No I haven’t, but I would love to. One day I’d like to do some Australian events, similar to what Derek Ayson has been doing the last few years

Your opinions

Favourite rally car: Mk2 Escort, 2-door Subaru WRC, Corolla WRC

Favourite rally driver: Petter Solberg was my favourite when he was at his loose, loose best. I love spectating the current top Kiwi Escort drivers such as Deane Buist, Regan Ross, Derek Ayson, etc.  Brother in-law, Richie Chadwick, is unreal too.

Favourite forest or event: There was a stage in the ESCC Rankleburn Rally that is still the best Special Stage I have driven, apart from the famous Kuri Bush.

Things you dislike about rallying? The cost is hard to deal with, hopefully will be able to attract a few sponsors with the new car.

Photo: Becky Ladbrook

Definitely the worst part about rallying is the soul destroying disappointment of a crash or a DNF at a big rally. All that build-up, commitment, anticipation and excitement boils over and you’re left wondering why you bother.

The highs and lows of motor racing can be extreme!

Best result: Not too sure. I think my Catlins Coast Rally 2015 was the most rewarding, personally.

After building a lead of something like eight minutes I had a close up inspection of a deer fence in the last stage and had to limp out and back to Balclutha, with the left front suspension and wheel folded under the car.

Minimised the time loss and dug deep to get to the end and take the class win.

Best rally memory: All the good people I have met and the fun we have had – too many memories to pick one

Photo: Becky Ladbrook

Strangest incident on a rally: A girl flashed me once on a touring stage, that was strange.

Biggest accident: I have had a couple of really big ones. Otago Rally 2012 was a really nasty crash. Euan Cameron captured it nicely. That was the 12 month rebuild.

Circle Hill Rallysprint 2016 was also a good one. I said to my navigator “we’re crashing here” before hitting the outside bank, tumbling down the road and over the drop on the other side and backwards into a tree.

All of this after the finish line! Nice .

Ian Warren and I repaired the car in seven weeks and made it to the Catlins Coast Rally

If you had $250,000 to spend on rallying, what would you do? I’d have a full spec Mk2 Escort and pick and choose my events in NZ and Australia. For me it’s all about the fun of it, not so much chasing fame and glory.

If you could make one rule change in NZ rallying, what would it be? Co-drivers take the wheel for a few rounds of the NZRC.Go Dougie!

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Peter has been the editor of RallySport Magazine since its inception in 1989, in both printed and online form. He is a long-time competitor, event organiser and official, as well as working in the media.

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