A protégé of Hayden Paddon, Tauranga’s David Holder and co-driver, Jason Farmer, secured their first New Zealand Rally Championship title with victory in the Gisborne Rally in June 2106.
In an incisive interview with RallySport Magazine last year, Holder spoke about the impact Paddon has had on his career, the role his Christian faith plays in his rallying, and his plans for the future.
With Holder's recent announcement that he'll contest the 2018 Junior World Rally Championship in an M-Sport preparedFord Fiesta R2, we thought it was an opportune time to reprint this August 2016 interview with New Zealand rallying's 'next big thing'.
David Holder on his way to winning the 2016 New Zealand Rally Championship. Photo: Geoff Ridder
RallySport Magazine: Congratulations on winning your first national championship. It’s obviously a lifetime goal reached, but is there also a sense of relief that you’ve done it?David Holder: Thanks! Yeah, relief is certainly one of the emotions, but to be honest the feeling is just plain weird!
Some people overwhelm me with compliments for the accomplishment and I feel like they're hyping it up to be more than it is, then other times I'll be sitting there and I just have a wee moment where I smile on the inside a little bit about the fact my name will be on that trophy forever, beside some legends of motorsport!
The main thing I feel most of the time, and something I make sure I remember, is the gratefulness towards everyone that's helped. To sit here and claim the championship as my success would be naïve, to say the least. It's been a huge team effort, including lots of sacrifice from my wife too!
David Holder is now heading overseas to contest the 2018 JWRC. Photo: Geoff Ridder
RSM: Your career so far has been an interesting one. You’ve shown great speed from the outset, but have had a few hiccups along the way. What have been the most challenging ones?
Hiccups is a nice way to word them! It's a journey that's certainly been filled with ups and downs and at times there's been lot of emotion involved, but from the moment I got behind the wheel, I've just felt like this is my calling. Besides, I'm not really good at anything else, so it's a no brainer to focus all my energy on this!
Let's not beat around the bush though, there's no denying I've made my fair share of mistakes in a car, some much bigger than others.
I guess the one definitive moment was crashing out of Rally Whangarei 2015 after leading for most of the rally. It was the first event of the national season, and more importantly, the first event of what I had publicly stated as my 'professional career'.
Basically my wife and I decided the time had come to commit wholeheartedly to chasing the dream. Essentially the plan was for me to quit my job as an engineer, enabling me to focus solely on finding sponsorship to run the car, alongside the other necessary steps to becoming the best.
Meanwhile, in the background we would live off my wife's income. It seemed like a brilliant plan. What could go wrong?
A lot of people like the saying "to finish first, first you must finish’, but personally I hate it! I mean, yes, it makes sense, but honestly, who actually goes to an event with a 'win it or bin it' approach.
I actually had a bit of a count up of my career to date and out of the 32 rallies I've competed in, eight have ended in tears and 24 on the podium - nothing in between!
RSM: This year’s NZRC has been difficult for everyone, with all the contenders having issues in at least one event. What’s been the key to you winning the series with one round remaining?
To say it's been a year drama filled year would be an understatement! Looking at the entry list, on paper it's certainly a star-studded affair. I mean you've got all the, dare I say it, 'old' names and then us 'younger' guys starting to come through, so it was always going to be full of excitement.
Personally, I feel the key to winning this year was the team around me. We've got a fantastic team culture going on that I've found is hugely important. Everyone involved has 100% belief in my abilities, regardless of what any doubters might say.
Ultimately they are giving up their time to ensure I've got the best chance of winning, and as a result they bend over backwards to take stress away from me during events ... hopefully they enjoy it too!
David Holder won the 2017 Otago Rally driving Hyundai New Zealand's i20 AP4+. Photo: Peter Whitten
Not forgetting reliability as a no brainer too, so having Mike at Force Automotive as a member of the team and keeping the car running so perfectly (100% reliability over three years) has been important.
It's also been a tough year sponsorship wise, so we really do appreciate the support we have received, especially from the likes of Stadium Finance, who backed me right from the outset!
Overwhelmingly, I think for me, God's really had his hand in this win. Sorry to get all spiritual, but our faith is something Jase and I both make no secret of, as it's really the whole reason we compete.
We've managed to get through some pretty tough times, so feel blessed He gave us this championship ... heck, maybe our competitors could try the prayer approach, it seems to be working for us!
RSM: Hayden Paddon has been a huge supporter of you for some years. What part has Hayden played in you becoming NZ Champion?
Hayden has been absolutely pivotal in more ways than I can let on, to be honest. Take my first rally win at Whangarei for example. We were staring down the face of not getting to the event at all, and he pulled some strings to make sure we competed.
He's obviously very humble and I'll tell you now his answer will be "I hardly did anything", but believe me, he certainly played a big part.
Mostly, our relationship consists of emails re-sponsorship ideas or rally advice, as there's been little chance for actual practical driver training, but he always replies straight away, even when it's on the evening of his WRC events.
We've been in the car together a couple of times a few years ago, but honestly, we are both terrible in the co-driver’s seat. He may be a WRC superstar, but sitting next to him I have zero faith we are going to stay on the road (laughs).
I'm sure he speaks equally as highly about my abilities when he sits besides me, but maybe his are a bit more warranted!
Forgetting everything else he's done, the privilege of claiming him as your mentor and the associated media coverage that gets in itself is great ... for want of a better description, 'riding off his coat tails', so to speak, it gave me some credibility when perhaps I hadn't quite earned it yet.
In the background, however, it's not just all about me. He's constantly doing what he can for number of other competitors too, maybe a little less in the public eye, but he sees the talent present in a number of individuals and is passionate about seeing NZ rallying grow as a whole. He deserves every accolade he gets!
David Holder gets a look at the Fiesta he'll drive in the 2018 JWRC.
RSM: Where to now for David Holder? Is winning a second NZ title the focus now, or are you looking overseas for the next opportunity in your career?
Good question. Forward is the answer! The plan is to look at any opportunity around for me to get some overseas experience. It sounds straightforward enough, but as always budget is the contributing factor.
I think for now the obvious place to start looking into is the Asia region for some one-off events and the like. I'd like to say I've got more on the table right now, but it's early days since winning the title unfortunately, but obviously the end goal is to be World Champion, just as I know Hayden will be.
The NZ Championship is still a major priority too, not that winning another championship is my main focus, but more around the experience side of things.
I'm still very new to the whole game really (32 rallies total), so just being in the seat is an absolute must for me. That said, if we are doing the full NZ Championship we will be there to win it.
RSM: AP4 is really starting to take off in New Zealand. Is that something you want to try?
Absolutely! These cars are seriously cool and will undoubtedly just get faster and faster as things are developed. I've been lucky enough to have a small squirt in Andrew Hawkeswood’s Mazda, and I can say they are the real deal!
Next year will see the introduction of at least two new AP4s, and I think perhaps even another two or three on top of that, so it's great for the sport.
Andrew deserves a lot of credit for the time and money he's invested into making them a reality.
For our 2017 NZ campaign, Jase and I are currently working hard, approaching manufacturers to see if we can make something happen. If I'm honest, it feels like a long shot, but we're having a crack regardless.
Worst case, I think I could probably convince the guys at Stadium Finance to let me drive the Evo for another season though.
David Holder (left) is hoping to emulate his mentor, Hayden Paddon.
RSM: Who’ll be the next ‘big thing’ to come out of New Zealand rallying?
That's a hard one, as I've been too busy being selfish and concentrating on my own things, so here's hoping it's me (laughs).
Jokes aside, I have a lot of time for Matt Summerfield, he's someone that has clearly got some speed and is just an all round good guy, so that combination will surely hold him in good stead.
Max Bailey is another who will be fast when he steps into a 4WD - just how fast is something no one knows? Perhaps he will blow us all away, but it's difficult to judge as he's never really been challenged in the 2WD categories (in similar machinery).
I also have a close eye on a couple of competitors who I'm sure will be big successes, although they are in the early stages of their careers at the moment.
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