Hamish Bond making debut | Otago Daily Times Online News

New Zealand rowing great Hamish Bond is used to changing gears.

He switched from rowing to cycling and back to rowing again.

Every shift was smooth. He has a bulging collection of medals as proof.

Bond has even shown promise in his latest adventure. But moving through the gears has been like trying to paddle with a teaspoon.

The triple Olympic gold medallist will make his rallying debut as a guest driver in the Otago Rally this weekend.

Now he just needs to figure out how to find fourth gear.

Bond competed in a sprint rally event in North Canterbury at the weekend as part of his build-up for the Otago Rally.

It was just the fourth time he had got behind the wheel of the 1998 Subaru Impreza that he will drive in the rally.

He had four runs of a 2.5km course and made steady improvements each time. He moved up from near the back of the field to mid-pack, which represented a strong improvement given his limited experience.

He has never owned a manual vehicle. All his cars have been automatic, so it has been, well, a crash course.

“Terrible pun,” he said.

“I’m very much in the novice category, so I’ve just got to drive at my own pace.

“But with the gaps between opportunities, it is two steps forward and two back each time.

“If I’m running last each time, that is perfectly fine because I don’t have any expectations. I’m just getting to a level where I feel confident and comfortable to drive within my ability.”

The vehicle has a top speed of more than 200kmh, so you have to know what you are doing.

“The other guest drivers they’ve had in the past have all had motorsport experience. But I’m literally learning how to drive a manual car.

“Everyone else is loading their cars on trailers, but I’m going to drive back to Amberley just to get some more time in the car.

“I struggled to find fourth coming back down out of fifth. Other people probably got into fifth more often, but there was one part where I got into fifth and every time I struggled to find fourth on the way back down.

“So I’m going to drive back to Amberley and do some shifting between fifth and fourth.”

The Otago Rally begins with the ceremonial start from the Octagon on Friday evening.

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