When the Quit Forest Rally gets underway in a couple of weeks one driver to watch will also be making his West Australian debut, and that driver is Steve Mackenzie.
The young Victorian burst onto the rally scene in 2013 at the wheel of an underpowered, but giant killing, Ford Fiesta. Since then he’s built and developed his own G2-spec Ford Fiesta ST, the 1.6 litre, turbo-charged hot hatch dicing for stage wins with Scott Pedder and Brendan Reeves at last year’s Rally Australia and Rally Victoria.
“The Forest Rally will in fact be my first time rallying on that side of the country, so I don’t have any prior experience to fall back on,” Mackenzie said. “But when I had Ben Searcy co-drive for me a couple of years ago he felt my style would suit the WA roads.”
“I know it’s going to be a lot slipperier than I’m used to at other events, and I think he (Searcy) meant you need to be neat and precise in your driving to get the best out of the conditions.”
Despite only debuting the G2 Fiesta at Rally Australia last September, Mackenzie immediately set some blistering stage times but also battled the usual teething problems with running a brand new car.
“We were slowed with a few issues at Rally Australia and Rally Victoria but we’re confident that we’re on top of those and ready to start the new season in great shape,” he said. “Basically we’ve tuned the rear shocks and we’ve just completed a run on the dyno to tune the engine.”
Having already completed a daylong test session Mackenzie is confident that the Fiesta package that took the challenge right up to Pedder’s Renault Clio and Reeves’ Mazda2 at the end of last season is primed and ready to take on the Evans brothers.
“When we finished Rally Victoria last year I knew we’d be back in 2015, but it was looking like a bit of a dead Championship ahead with no Scott or Brendan. But now, with the news of both Eli (Evans) and Simon (Evans), well now we know what we’re up against,” Steve said.
“The work we’ve done to our engine, it’s probably taken a few horsepower out of the car, but it should also make it more drivable and therefore faster. I’m hopeful that will prove the case because we know Eli, in the Citroen, and Simon, in the Honda, will be quick.”
“I’m not daunted to be running against those guys, but equally I’m not expecting to beat them. My aim is to be close to them, I have no doubt that’s achievable, but really I’m just going to each event to drive as fast as I can and worry about what the stage times when I get to the finish,” Steve added.
For more information on the Quit Forest Rally and the Australian Rally Championship, visit www.rally.com.au