How two-wheel experience aided Olympian’s rally debut

BMX world champion Sarah Walker found some things do translate when she contested the Otago Rally


It’s not quite like riding a bike, but it’s not far off. And when you’ve topped the world on two wheels three times before making the move to four, you’re qualified.

And as Sarah Walker slid a Subaru towards an Otago ditch, the triple BMX world champion knew she was qualified. It was the crash which bridged the gap between the two disciplines.

“Everything slows down,” Walker explained to DirtFish about her Rally of Otago bow in her native New Zealand. “There have been lots of similarities, but it was only when I really knew I was going off and into the ditch that the similarity really came.

“When I was riding the bike and it went wrong, you immediately focused on not hurting yourself. In the car, the feeling was the same – except I was working to make the crash as small as possible, so it would hurt the car as little as possible.”


She did well. She avoided the rock which removed the left-rear corner of Jack Hawkeswood’s Toyota, but still landed the H6-specification Subaru on its side. Briefly.

“The road was just like ice,” she said. “I knew it was going to be slippery, so I backed off a little bit, but then it started to slide and there was nothing I could do.”

What she could do was jump out the car and save her rivals from a similar fate. She did that.

Talking at the post-event prize giving, Walker got stuck into her competitors in an attempt to land some beer for the Morgan Motorsport team she was driving for.

“You know who you are,” she said. “The ones I stopped going into the same ditch as me – you need to think about buying the team some beer for saving your cars!

“Being honest and I don’t mean this to sound bad, it was a bit of a relief to see some of the other drivers having some issues and going off in the same corner – it meant it wasn’t just me!”


Walker played herself in through Saturday, understanding the pacenotes more, committing to them more and more before she got a good feeling for Sunday’s opener. She wound the flat-six Impreza up a notch and achieved her primary aim. She was taking on and beating some of the series regulars.

She wasn’t an Olympian trying something new. She was a rally driver. She is a rally driver.

“I want to do it again,” she said. “If anybody needs a car driving, I’m there!

“I’m so glad and so grateful to the team for getting the car out of the stage and letting me do the last two stages – I would have hated for this whole thing to finish in that ditch on Sunday morning.”