Aussie Anear’s ride to WRC2 dream

Luke Anear

As a fresh-faced 19-year-old, Luke Anear had his sights set on a career in motorsport.

He’d tracked down an ex-John Bowe EL Falcon being advertised by John Briggs Motorsport, which he planned to race in the Konica Lites Series (now Super2).

“I saved up $85,000 and went up there to buy that car and when I got there, I was asked what I was going to do for an engine, because it didn’t come with an engine,” Anear told Speedcafe.com.

“I then realised that I didn’t have enough money [to pursue that path].”

Anear’s life pivoted towards business – he’s now CEO of SafetyCulture – but a full circle has ensued to belatedly bring him to the top tier of motorsport.

The 45-year-old last month made his World Rally Championship debut at Rally Italia Sardegna, aboard a Ford Fiesta Rally2 car and alongside compatriot and co-driver Andy Sarandis.

“It is a childhood dream obviously to be able to compete at this level,” said Anear.

“It’s the stuff you dream about as kids and think you’d never, ever be able to do, so for us to be able to compete in WRC is just amazing.

“We were pinching ourselves when we got to the start line and just took a moment to realise how cool this is.”

A bumpy ride to 29th overall was the outcome, but the Queenslander will take a series of learnings to be better prepared the second time around, this weekend at Rally Estonia.

“It’s a tough competition, way harder than the Australian Rally Championship,” he said.

“Obviously the events are longer, not only in competitive kilometres, but it was 1400km all up with the transports.

“So we were in the race car for many hours a day, it was hot, around 40 degrees [Celsius] outside with no breeze, and so you’re kind of dealing with the elements and the length of it, and then you add in the fact we’re in a different country with a different language.

“We knew it was going to be tough, but we probably didn’t realise just how tough it was going to be.

“Everybody said Sardinia is the roughest rally on the calendar and there’s a lot of attrition, so our goal was to get through the event.

“And we’re still developing, we have only been using our pacer system for about a year, so we’re still refining that and the first pass of each loop was really just checking our notes.

“We couldn’t commit to our notes because they were all brand-new notes. The guys we were competing against have had notes for years on a lot of these stages, so for us we were really happy to get to the end.

“We learnt a lot.”

Luke Anear

So where did the passion for rally all begin?

“I think probably Carlos Sainz in Perth, I remember he came around a corner and rolled a whole bunch of times and I think that was probably around the time that I really started following it,” explained Anear.

“Over the years I would get more engaged and then obviously with [nine-time champion Sebastien] Loeb, that really pulled me back in.

“But I think growing up, you always saw Colin McRae obviously did a lot for the sport even though he only won one world championship, so there was always something that I followed, but I never thought it was within my reach.

“And so I guess it was kind of a dream that you just put on the shelf.

“I was able to get in the car with Loeb last year in France in a test, and to see him, it was on tarmac as well. I thought this is either going to blow my mind or it’s going to be boring, and it was boring.

“He was so smooth and precise and good driving is that; it’s not usually Colin McRae style, it’s usually the opposite. So to hop in the car with Loeb and just see how refined and how precise his inputs were was a pretty amazing experience as well.”

Anear only bought himself a rally car in 2018, partly as an escape from a decade’s worth of 16-hour workdays.

He finished eighth in his maiden Australian Rally Championship start that year in Tasmania, and quickly rose up the pecking order at subsequent events at Adelaide Hills and Coffs Harbour.

Now, Anear is less than three months out from competing at the closest thing he has to a home WRC event, Rally New Zealand across September 29 to October 2, and is not ruling out another international foray next year.

“I think originally the plan was just to come over here and do some WRC rounds and use that experience back home in Australia but already it feels like unfinished business,” he said.

“I think Sardinia, if we were working off a set of notes from the previous year, it would have been that much better again.

“And although we were 29th with 12 minutes of penalties, I think we might actually have been half-competitive if we were working off a set of pace notes.

“So it feels like we could come back next year and do some more, so let’s see what happens in the next few months.”

Anear will go head-to-head this weekend with WRC event winner Hayden Paddon, who is competing in WRC2 at selected events this year such as Estonia and New Zealand.

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