Ari Pettigrew is only 17 years of age, but the Rangiora teenager has been pegged as one to watch by rally sport experts and it’s this potential that has gained Pettigrew the backing of Stadium Finance in the form of a Ford Fiesta rally car.
Pettigrew’s breakout result took place in August this year at his second-ever rally event when he took fourth place outright in the Catlins Rally. He was just seven seconds off third place, having started 62nd on the road and driving what many would regard as an unusual model of car for rallying – a rear-wheel-drive BMW 318Ti. The event was run in remarkably wintery conditions for a rally in New Zealand with stages covered snow and ice, but this didn’t faze Pettigrew who said: “I guess 10 years of sliding around in grass karts came good. I think I was able to carry more speed through the corners [than competitors] and it just clicked really.”
This result and Pettigrew’s dedication to building a career as a rally driver have brought him to the attention of Kiwi world rallying sensation Hayden Paddon and one of Paddon’s long-time supporters Tony Gosling of Stadium Finance.
Gosling says: “While Ari hasn’t done a lot of driving yet, the results he’s producing in a relatively short space of time tell you that he’s fairly naturally talented – that’s what we picked up on. After meeting and talking with Ari, we could see he’s a good young man and Hayden is also supportive, so that’s why we have supplied Ari with the Ford Fiesta and some funding to kick off his 2017 rally campaign.”
Paddon says he’ll help Pettigrew where he can, and has invited Pettigrew to join the seminar learning sessions at this week’s Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout* in Auckland.
“It has been impressive what Ari has achieved to date and reminds me a lot of myself at that age,” says Paddon. “We are helping him where we can, but it’s also important at this early stage of his career for Ari to find his own footing and to take time gaining experience and doing more rallies. The young talent in New Zealand rallying at present is immense, and Ari is part of a new breed of Kiwi drivers who have the potential to take on the world in the future.”
Pettigrew, who now works as an apprentice mechanic in the AA Service Centre next door to Stadium Cars in Christchurch, is understandably excited by what lies ahead for his 2017 rally season in the Fiesta.
“It is a big opportunity to have the Fiesta from Stadium Finance. Having this car means we can do the full New Zealand Rally Championship, rather than just the Mainland Series in our BMW. We’ve got to push now and find the budget for next year, and with the fantastic TV coverage the NZRC gets, we’re hoping to secure some more sponsors alongside Stadium Finance.”
He’s also thrilled to be attending the Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout classroom sessions. “This is an amazing opportunity to learn. I haven’t done any events with pace notes yet, all rallying I’ve done so far is blind, so I’ll be trying to learn as much as about notes from Hayden and his co-driver John Kennard. Hayden’s been there and done that and he knows the hard bits and bits where we can improve; that’s probably the biggest help. He’s very generous.”
Gosling says running Pettigrew in the two-wheel-drive (2WD) Fiesta ST rally car against several other similar cars in the NZRC 2WD category will help give Pettigrew a true gauge of where he’s at. “We want to help Ari learn and develop as a driver and all-round competitor. This year ahead is more about learning a good pace note system and getting in a good navigator; just getting himself organised as a competitor. At only 17, he’s got time on his side.”
Gosling recalls the first time he met Pettigrew. “About four years ago, when we were supporting Hayden in the Skoda, we had an event in the yard where people could drive Hayden’s Skoda in the rally game simulator. The prize was a ride with Hayden if you could beat his time. Out of the 30-40 people who turned up, Ari, who was about 12 years old, bet Hayden’s time, the only person who did!”
There’s plenty of work ahead for the teen – not only does he need to learn how to market himself as a bankable proposition to sponsors, Pettigrew is expected to do much of the work on the Fiesta rally car himself.
“We provide the car and some funding to kick things off,” says Gosling. “We’ll help find other partners to get involved in the programme financially and benefit from the co-promotion, but Ari also has to learn how to approach sponsors. He’s got to do everything that Hayden did – it’s all part of it, he’s got to do the majority of the work himself. We’ve given Ari a job as an apprentice mechanic; he was an apprentice diesel mechanic, but he’s more interested in cars. The expectation is he’ll do all the work on the car himself, again like Hayden did.”
by Kate Gordon-Smith/Relish Communications