"For the first time US rally fans can follow along and watch one of their own competing against the best."
Haven't we already been doing that with Pat Richard or John Buffum and Jon Woodner, et al, before him? OK, so Pat's a Canadian but I think most US rally fans consider him "one of their own." We've certainly been following his exploits. Maybe they are referring to Rally New Zealand specifically. I don't know if any US drivers have done that rally besides Rod Millen, who is of course an ex-pat. I thought Jeff Zwart did Rally New Zealand one year.
Anyway, it should be good excitement for us to watch Ramana and Pat go head to head in NZ!
I am so excited about this opportunity, but it will definitely be a learning experience, especially making pace notes. It is great to see abit of a revitalization in Gp. N, the competition is tremendous this year in the Production Cup, not to mention what the NZ/OZ locals will bring to the party...
Funny you should mention it, he was one of my idols growing up (just behind Walter Rohrl, but don't tell Stig that!!)
Anyway, my first rally was Maine Forest 1999 in a 100 hp Golf, same year that Stig came and drove Carl's Escort. I had just bought this VW for $2500 from a friend of Lance Smith's, so Lance helped run it in the rally. I went up to the shop on the Wednesday before the rally, partially to see the VW and make sure the seat was in the right place and everything, but mostly because I knew Stig was there after testing the Escort, and I knew it would be a fantastic opportunity to get him to sign some of my old Audi paraphernalia.
It turns out that day was Stig's birthday, so there was a bit of a celebration! John Buffum came over with a few cases of beer, and the stories just came pouring out of these two legends... it had been about 24 years since Stig was last in North America competing in a rally, and between John and Stig and Lance, I got one hell of a history lesson, finally going to bed at about 3 in the morning, though Stig seemed abit disappointed that we were going to bed so early!!
I was fortunate to meet up with Stig again at Pikes Peak last year where he was wrestling around a very powerful, if somewhat ill handling RS200. Unfortunately for Stig, by the time race day came around, he only had some gravel rally tires to run up the hill with, not ideal for the road which had been swept of much of its gravel. Soon before his run, he came around to the Pirelli guys, looking for a slick-type tire for his car, and ironically, the only set of tires available were the ones I had just used to race up with mountain with! They were quickly dismounted from my car and remounted on his Ford's wheels, minutes before he staged for his run! I heard later that he liked the tires, though I was never able to ask him about them personally...
Well, sorry for the digression, but once again being able to compete with one of the true greats of rallying will make New Zealand that much more of a pleasure... I can't wait!
Having given up my roaming, I'm now back in NZ so anyone coming down, or wanting any info, give me a holla. I'm busying studying at the mo. so haven't commited myself to any official duties for the event but am sure the studies will go on the back burner for the duration of the event!!!