Motorcycling great changing tack

Aaron Slight in action on his bike. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Aaron Slight in action on his bike. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
He may have raced with the best of them on two wheels and in touring cars but when it comes to getting in a rally car, Aaron Slight is a complete novice.

Zero is the amount of experience he has had driving a rally car on gravel roads but it has not stopped him jumping at the chance to drive competitively next month.

Slight (55) will be the guest driver at next month's Otago Rally, set to be raced on April 16-18.

The former British Touring Car Championship competitor will drive a Ford Escort RS1800 in the Classic component of the rally.

Slight rode in the World Superbike Championship from 1988-2000, finishing second in 1996 and 1998.

He then made the switch to four wheels, driving for Vauxhall in 2002, and has since been a regular circuit-racing competitor in endurance races around the world.

He drove an Aston Martin at Pukekohe in New Zealand in the past couple of months.

"I love driving fast and sideways without all the modern electronic aids that dilute the pleasure, so a BDA Escort at Otago Rally is perfect," he said.

"I’ve done nothing at all [in rallying].

"I’m heading down to Christchurch in a couple of weeks to try out a rally car but that is going to be in a paddock.

"Being on a gravel road in a car is way different to that."

There were obvious differences to a rally car and a high-powered bike in the way they were piloted.

Braking and acceleration were way different, as was the approach into corners.

"There are a lot of guys out there who think they know it all but I’m not one of them.

"I want to finish and do well but I’m not sure I will be up with the leaders. As long as I can improve from day to day then I will be happy."

He will joined by experienced co-driver Ian McKee, of Christchurch.

Slight lived in Europe for years while competing on his bike but now lives n his home town of Masterton and still drives in the New Zealand Touring Car Championship.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Finnish World Rally Championship star Mikko Hirvonen had been set to travel down under for the Otago Rally.

When this was no longer an option, organisers saw an opportunity to invite a motorsport figure from New Zealand to try rallying and help broaden its appeal.

Motorsport New Zealand and Otago Rally have developed a contingency plan to run the event under Level 2 Covid-19 restrictions if needed.

The Otago Rally is grateful for the support of Dunedin City Council Premier Event funding.

 

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