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Coffs Harbour local Nathan Quinn has revealed a shock entry for his home Round of the World Rally Championship, next month’s Coates Hire Rally Australia, lining up against the likes of Sebastian Ogier, Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Ostberg in a MINI World Rally Car.
“We are still pretty shocked ourselves,” said Quinn on the announcement of the deal to drive for the Motorsport d’Italia team at Rally Australia. “It’s all came about through a series of pretty unrelated events, a lot of talking to our support network and a lot of hard work behind the scenes.”
The drive is a one-off at this stage, but Quinn his hopeful that a smooth run on his home roads will open the door for future outings at the sport’s highest level.
“It’s just a one rally deal for our home event,” continued Nathan. “Rally Australia is an event we really wanted to showcase what we can do based on how hugely encouraging our network of supporters, friends and family have been in wanting to see me back in a competitive rally car.”
It’s a dramatic turn of events for Quinn who has had to settle for irregular local events this season, after a limited Asia-Pacific and Chinese Championship campaign last year.
“I wanted to really make a remarkable entrance to my home event, I want it to be an event to remember. The interest we’ve received so far has been hugely encouraging, when you’re saying you’re going to be driving a World Rally Car that creates a totally different level of excitement,” Quinn explained.
“My last International level event was in China last October, and even that was a tough event, we had problems but we overcame them and showed we can be fast and consistent.”
It will be a massive upgrade in speed and overall performance too for Quinn who has spent the past few seasons at the wheel of Group N rally cars. He explains though that taking the experience of stepping into a World Rally Car one small step at a time is at the forefront of his mind.
“I’m going to be starting Rally Australia quietly confident. I’m certainly not expecting to be taking time off the World’s best, but I definitely want to have a crack on home roads,” he said.
“This is a chance to realise a dream and I want to enjoy every single moment. It’s rare in life you can complete a dream, they always seem just out of reach. But for me this is the realization of a dream, to drive a World Rally Car in our home event, that’s quite incredible!”
“There is an element of risk having not driven regularly the last 12 months but I certainly won’t be jumping an in unfamiliar car and going at eleven tenths. I’ll push where I feel comfortable,” Quinn added.
While openly admitting to keeping his expectations modest, Quinn is still setting himself goals to achieve over the course of the three-day event.
“Realistically we’re aiming for the top ten and to be the first Australian driver home. The WRC field is strong though, but I think as long as I’m there on Sunday and can keep building my pace then we can push towards the top five. As long as I can build my experience and put my mind to it I know we can be there at the end.”
As much as Quinn has to learn, the Motorsport d’Italia team will also be on unfamiliar territory on their first competitive visit Down Under. Whilst the team is vastly experienced, particularly in running the MINI World Rally Car over the past couple of seasons in the WRC, Quinn is hoping to put some testing miles on the clock ahead of the start podium in Coffs.
“We’re trying to boost the budget to do a full day test before the start of the event, I think that would be hugely beneficial to both me and the team. If not, unfortunately the first real blast will be when we start the two qualifying runs,” he explained.
“The car we’ll be running last ran in Argentina, but I believe since then it’s been updated with the latest engine and damper developments. I’m aware of the strengths of the car particularly in the tight stuff, and I think the car will definitely suit the type of rally in Coffs Harbour.”
So in summary a massive career opportunity for Quinn, and a huge boost for Australian rallying to have one of it’s own drivers in top-flight machinery at the local Round of the World Rally Championship.
“Sometimes you just have to jump into the deep blue sea and see what happens. There will be a lot of talk around about me driving this car and I’m determined to not let that worry me, I’m just going out to give it my best shot!” Quinn remarked in closing.
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