Multi-time New Zealand midget champion Michael Pickens hopes to get more chances behind the wheel of rally cars, following his rallying debut at next month’s Repco Battle of Jacks Ridge in Whitford, Auckland.
“I’ve always wanted to do it for years, to be honest. But I’ve never had time, my schedule doesn’t really allow it especially with me travelling back and forth overseas. But with this Covid-19 thing it’s freed stuff up a little bit,” he told Velocity News.
“But I’d definitely love to have a crack at it in the future, and this is a good foot in the door I guess.”
Pickens is one of numerous drivers set to take on the event in one of Hayden Paddon’s potent Suzuki GSX-R7500–powered CrossKart. Valvoline D1NZ National Drifting Championship winner Darren Kelly will also wield a CrossKart.
In preparation for the event, Pickens was one of several drivers to sample the purpose built venue at a recent media day — riding shotgun with Dylan Turner in his Audi S1 AP4.
“It’s amazing, what a venue,” Pickens said. “That big jump is pretty cool, but … when it’s your first time in a rally car everything’s cool.”
“It’s totally different [to speedway]. The grip level in all aspects is all different. Obviously, it’s four-wheel drive for a start and the commitment they have as well. It’s mind blowing. […] We can’t take someone for a ride in a midget or a sprint car, so it’s quite cool.”
The former Chili Bowl podium-getter hasn’t yet quizzed his rallying peers for tips, but says he’ll be “asking a few more questions now that I’ve had a feel for it from the passenger’s seat.”
The Battle of Jacks Ridge takes place on November 15, the day after the City of Auckland Rally. Pickens will be joined by the likes of Hayden Paddon, Shane van Gisbergen, Darren Kelly, and more racers from a variety of disciplines.