Could the 2013 Rally America 2WD champion be an overall podium threat at New England Forest Rally?

WILLISTON, Vt. (July 3, 2015) --Australian driver Brendan Reeves dominated the 2WD class at Rally America with his sister Rhianon Gelsomino as co-driver when he made his debut in 2013, with five class wins in five starts. Even more impressive: he put his 2WD Ford Fiesta R2 on the overall podium at Ojibwe Forest Rally that year, sharing the spotlight with Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino on top and David Higgins and Craig Drew in second, and kept his car in the top five overall at every event. News that he's returning to the series in the new M-Sport Ford Fiesta R2 in partnership with Team O'Neil and Block's Hoonigan Racing Division prompted us to track him down -- down under.

RALLY AMERICA: You've previously had great success with the R2 platform at Rally America. What can you tell us about this new car, its strengths, and any challenges you foresee with the car?

BRENDAN REEVES: The new car is a big step from the old 1600cc R2. The biggest and most standout thing is the 1,000 cc turbo engine. This means that instead of revving the engine to maximum RPM all the time you can use the 300 nm (221 lbf) torque and up-change gears at 6,000 RPM and optimize traction. As far as traction goes, there is new suspension in the front with more travel and revised gear ratios. The car also has new brakes all around and the ECU and the electronic dashboard from the Fiesta R5. So, there are many small things put together to make the upgrades to around 80 percent on the old car. I still haven’t driven the car and won’t until our pre-event test but I certainly think we are steps ahead of where I was in 2013 on the NEFR roads.

Why do you think so many big names are attracted to New England Forest Rally this year, with Ken Block and Ramana Lagemann and the whole M-Sport contingent coming, and Travis Pastrana coming back to Rally America... What's special about NEFR and what are you most looking forward to?

I have always been attracted to Rally America because of its huge variation in roads and rallies -- like the WRC, but all in one country. There are some very fast cars and a big variety of international competitors making for some great competition. Having big names like Block, Pastrana, and Higgins competing and some great teams like M-Sport will also excite the fans.

The last time you contested at NEFR was in 2013, amidst a terrific streak of 2WD class wins, with your sister as co-driver. Can you briefly fill us in on what you've been up to since then and how you feel you've grown as a driver?

That was a truly amazing year for me and Team O’Neil in the Ford Fiesta, having come fresh from the WRC Academy. Since then I have done two years in the Australian Rally Championship developing a new car but still two-wheel drive. We had a really close battle for the entire season of 2014, winning several rallies outright, and finished second in the championship.

At the 2013 Ojibwe Forest Rally you managed to put an R2 on an overall Rally America podium, next to Ken Block and David Higgins. Ken specifically mentioned it when I
interviewed him! Do you have any personal goals coming into NEFR?

It was incredible to do that and to be standing on the outright podium without any expectations was brilliant. I love to set goals and especially when you achieve them it feels amazing. For NEFR I want to do the best for M-Sport and Ford and display their car to the competitors and fans in the best way possible, and that will be by stage times. If I can be at the top of the 2WD time sheets as much as possible it would be great but I’m sure the competition will want different.

How about on the sibling rivalry front? Rhianon has been having a good run as co-driver to Nick Roberts in Rally America. They have a lead in the SP class championship and have been making some overall podiums: any friendly wagers between siblings going on in the lead-up to NEFR?

Nick and Rhianon have been doing great the last two seasons with outright podiums and building their stage times. They are in a different class to us so it won’t come into play. The biggest thing for me is to get comfortable with my new co-driver, Anthony McLoughlin, and do the best we can for the team. It's probably a more nervous and exciting time for our family watching from Australia and keeping up to date as we race and they sleep. I haven’t mentioned Ramana Lagemann, but he will be my teammate in the R5 2000 cc so it's going to be nice to work closely with him and Ken for any advice and to just share info.

The New England Forest Rally is the sixth round in the 2015 Rally America National Championship. The 25th anniversary running of the New England Forest Rally takes place July 17-18 and is headquartered in Newry, Maine. It is expected to feature 120 challenging stage miles over two days of competition, including a return to the smooth and twisty stages first used in 2014.

ABOUT RALLY AMERICA: Rally competition can be simply described “real cars, real roads, real fast.” It’s an all-season motorsport that sees drivers and their co-drivers take modified road cars to the limit as they achieve blistering speeds over courses that cover more than 100 miles of gravel, dirt or snow-covered roads. Based in Williston, Vermont, Rally America, Inc., sanctions the Rally America National Championship, which consists of eight national-level events in 2015 from Portland, Oregon, to Newry, Maine.