Back from the ashes – Interview: Rhianon Gelsomino
- 6th June 2014, 1:03am
Australian co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino suffered burns to her hands and face when the car in which she and driver Nick Roberts were competing, caught fire at the Oregon Trail Rally in America in early May.
After a mammoth effort by their team to rebuild the destroyed car, and with Rhianon's burns healing well, four weeks later the pair returned to the action at the STPR Rally. Not only did the pair finish the event, they claimed first in class and third outright - an amazing result after the dramas of the previous month.
RallySport Magazine caught up with Rhianon recently.
Congratulations Rhianon on your great result last weekend. Third outright and first in class must have been almost unthinkable before the event considering what happened in your previous rally.
You only had four weeks between events after suffering burns to your hands and face at the Oregon Trail Rally. What treatment was required to ensure you were able to compete again at STPR Rally?
After the incident I was seen at several different places to assess my burns and the treatment required. The burns were graded as 2nd degree burns on my hands and 1st degree on my face so that was a good outlook for me right from the start. The wounds specialist I was working with had me using a burn cream and redressing the burns each day and then going back in for treatment every few days. I was not allowed to get my hands wet and kept them bandaged. Then after the blisters were removed the hands were able to recover the best. I now daily apply vitamin E cream and sunscreen. They are still extremely sensitive and tender but improving every day.
Did you have any hesitation in getting back in a rally car after the last event?
No, I never thought about not getting back into a rally car. The incident was not a crash so the rally car part wasn’t the issue. The cooking at home with gas and fire was more scary to me. The fear of fire was my only fear. I love rally and it’s what I do for a living.
Obviously your team in America worked extremely hard to rebuild the car in time for the STPR Rally. How long before the event did you know that the car would definitely we ready in time?
The boys arrived at the event and were working on the car right up until the time it needed to go to scrutiny. They did an amazing job and once we knew all the parts we needed had arrived to the rally we knew that we would be out there.
You have a pretty busy schedule this year co-driving for both Nick Roberts in the Rally America series and for your brother Brendan (Reeves) in the Australian Rally Championship (ARC). How hard is it travelling from continent to continent every couple of months?
I have 14 rallies currently on my schedule with six in Australia and eight in the USA. It's an extremely busy year for me especially considering the rallies in the USA are very far from where I am based. The last event took three flights to get to. I try to keep myself very fit as I know I need to be traveling and coping with jetlag the best I can. I also try to watch Alex in his rallies when possible so that keeps me busy too. I am currently in Italy watching him do the WRC. With busy years for both of us, it's a matter of seeing each other when we can and enjoying doing what we love.
How do you think rallying in America compares to Australia?
I think they are very similar in many ways as far as they are both very big countries so you rally all over the place with many different conditions. The biggest difference for me is the fact that in the USA you can assist other teams. So you sometimes find yourself towing another rally car to get them back to service. Also the rallies in the USA are very fast with many chicanes required. This is very rare in Australia to need a chicane to slow a stage down. They also use A to B timing and have no Parc Fermes at night. So you can do an engine change overnight if you like. I guess you could say its based more around the club rallying I did in Victoria when I first started rallying with many of the rules etc.
Your life as a professional co-driver must seem a bit surreal for a girl from country Victoria. And you're also married to another professional co-driver, Alex Gelsomino, who co-drives for Ken Block, amongst other drivers. Do you often pinch yourself to make sure it's all real?
Yes, it’s pretty amazing to think that this is what I do for a living and so does Alex. We travel the world doing the sport we love. I would never complain but I will say it's also a life that not everyone could do. Especially when you are rarely home and you can sustain some pretty scary injuries. I think you really need to have the right mind to do it and love it so much. Your heart and soul fully needs to be committed to this lifestyle. It’s not for everyone, but I will enjoy it while I am lucky enough to.
Your next event is round three of the Australian Rally Championship, the International Rally of Queensland, in two weeks time. With a two month break between ARC events, are you looking forward to competing in Australia again?
I can’t wait to get back out there with my little brother Brendo. Brendo and I are very close and I am loving the amazing season we are having in the ARC. I always love rallying on home soil. My goal is that Brendo and I will hopefully be able to get back to the WRC but that takes a lot of money so we just need to focus now on winning the ARC and go from there. Queensland will be a tough event but I can’t wait to get back out in the forests in the Mazda 2 with Brendo!
Good luck Rhianon!
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