Australia’s not known for being cold. And Luke Anear’s not known for embellishment. So when the Queenslander says he and co-driver Andy Sarandis were on the point of collapse from heat exhaustion on day two of their World Rally Championship debut, there’s a story to be told.
Anear’s one of Australia’s most promising prospects. Well known on the domestic scene, he impressed M-Sport Ford World Rally Team when he tested a Ford Fiesta WRC in Cumbria late last year. This season’s all about making the step to the world championship.
Last week’s Rally Italy was the first move in that direction. Midway through Saturday in Sardinia, however, it was all going badly wrong.
“We were out of water on Saturday afternoon,” the Ford Fiesta Rally2 driver told DirtFish. “And we hadn’t eaten much, we had no food really and we had heatstroke. Another 20 minutes or so and we probably would have passed out, so it was pretty serious and we were just happy to get some water poured over our bodies and trying to get our core temperature down.”
With no water in the car or provided for them, Anear was forced to knock on the door of a farmhouse. Fortunately, a Sardinian farmer took pity on them.
“With no cold packs or anything, we were in a bit of strife,” he said. “Fortunately, the farmer gave us water in his house.
“We couldn’t even drink at that point, so we were just sat at the side of the road trying to cool down, and then we were able to keep going. It was a long day.”
Anear admitted Italy’s WRC round had provided a reality check in terms of the step from national sport to the top tier.
“It took me all the way back to 2018 and the first time I got in a rally car,” he said. “Back then I was overwhelmed and didn’t know what to take notice of and what to not worry about and it was all that all over again on Thursday afternoon [in Sardinia]. There’s so many rules and regulations we’re not familiar with.
“It was way harder than we thought. This is harder than anything we’ve ever done, and I think we were really unprepared for it. But it’s not something that I think you can really prepare well for until you know what you’re doing.
“Logistically, even the transport is complicated. We’re in a different country, different languages to the ones I’m used to, so simple things get hard really quick and the stress levels go up when you’re trying to ask for help and you don’t speak the language. Then there was the heat, and we just didn’t manage that.
It’s been hard, tough and an absolute baptism of fire, but so much learning and a great experienceLuke Anear
“I think the number of kilometers here is over 300 (180 miles). That’s near-on half of our whole season in Australia, in one weekend. Just the time and the experience and the roads as well, the stages are unbelievably technical and rough. Us coming through at the back of the field, so we’re getting all the ruts and things. We’ve learned everything.”
Hearing that, it was with some trepidation we asked if the plan for Estonia was still on.
Anear looked slightly bemused.
“Yeah!” he said, breaking out into the broadest of grins. “Mate, it’s been great fun. It’s been hard, tough and an absolute baptism of fire, but so much learning and a great experience.
“Estonia is the next stop for us, and obviously that’s a very different surface and I’m hearing all about that: so fast and jumps and things. That will be completely different again, so we’ll have to have a think between now and then about what we need to prepare for that.”
Anear finished Rally Italy 29th after being hit with a super rally penalty of 10 minutes on the opening stage.
“The team was forced to lower my seat before the start,” Anear explained. “The rules say your eye line has to be below the wings of the seat and mine was too high. I ended up having to sit really low in the superspecial and I couldn’t see as well as I wanted.
“I clipped a concrete block and broke a control arm. We had to stop in the stage and restart the next day. It was a tough start to what would be a really tough rally.”