In sporting terms, New Zealand is famous for four things: rallying, rugby, rowing and sailing. Two of those entities will collide when the New Zealand Rally Championship gets underway next month on the Otago Rally.
If you’re into your rowing, Hamish Bond will need no introduction. His Olympic gold medals (London 2012 coxless pair, Rio de Janeiro 2016 coxless pair and Tokyo 2020 in the eight division), and six gold medals in the World Rowing Championship do that talking for him.
But he’s set to make a very big introduction to the rallying world when he pilots Jeff Judd’s Magnum Motorsport Subaru Impreza GC8 on his very first stage rally. A genius in a boat, it’s time to see if he’s a genius in a rally car too.
“I got the call and thought this is an opportunity that I can’t ignore, it’s not going to come around every day,” Bond told DirtFish.
“It’s something completely different to me, I have no motorsport experience whatsoever but I’m really enjoying it.
“They talk about 10,000 hours is where you want to be before you’re an expert and I’ll be lucky if I can clock up an hour, so I’m trying to get in as much time as I can.”
Born in Dunedin where Otago Rally is based, this is the truly perfect rally for him to be invited to. But practice hasn’t necessarily been perfect so far.
“I haven’t fully binned it but I’ve definitely been on the edge of the ditch a couple of times and put the hard brakes on and come to stop,” Bond confessed.
“It’s just about dancing that fine line between confidence and speed, and also safety. Ultimately getting right the way through the Otago Rally is the goal, to get from the start to the finish.”
Otago Rally has welcomed some very accomplished guest drivers over the years but arguably the allure of an Olympic gold medalist could be even bigger for the event.
It comes at an intriguing time in Bond’s career too. The 36-year-old announced his retirement from rowing in January, and is no stranger to trying out new sports having competed in cycling from 2017-20 – even representing New Zealand at a world championship level.
So could rallying become a new venture?
“With three children [aged] three and under, my wife would probably suggest otherwise that it’s not the time to take risks but how could I turn it down?” said Bond. “It’s not going to fall at your feet an opportunity like this too often.
“I’m going to be way out the back but that’s OK it’s about the experience, and fortunately I’ve had enough wins to take a big loss.”