Thomas Paul has always been interested in cars and racing, but competing in the International Rally of Otago earlier this month was a definite highlight for him.
“I started racing grass carts in 2015 when I was 13 – around the same time as Dad bought a rally car,” says Thomas, adding, “Once he had his car, I started co-driving for him and driving in the odd Autocross, which is basically a time trial in a paddock. I think that it was dad’s history with co-driving in the early 2000s, and watching him from a young age, at events such as the Otago Rally, that really sparked my interest in rallying.”
Thomas moved to Cromwell with his family, from Milton, in 2017, and attended Cromwell College 2017-2020. He is now in his second year as a building apprentice in Cromwell.
Earlier highlights in his rallying career were Central Otago Car Club Junior Driver, 2019-2020 season; winning the 0-1600cc class at the Cromwell Street Sprints this year; second in the 0-1600cc class at the Ben Nevis Hill Climb this year.The Otago Rally was a fantastic weekend for Thomas, and good fun ‘even with the mechanicals faced’.
The weekend racing started in the Octagon in Dunedin on Friday night, then rallied all around Palmerston, Middlemarch, over Circle Hill and Kuri Bush over the weekend.
He was unable to finish the last stage on Saturday with gearbox issues, but found a gearbox on Saturday night, and in it went.
Thomas had a great start to Sunday, but dropped a cylinder for the last three stages, still managing to finish on three cylinders.
The rally attractced a record 130 entries this year, and Hyundai driver Hayden Paddon clinched his ninth Otago Rally victory.
Thomas now plans to keep competing and enjoying the sport, with bigger goals like the Mainland Rally series.
He gives a big thank you to his fantastic support crew, friends and family, saying, “I’m really lucky to have heaps of support. Mum and Dad are obviously the ones that have always been there. Then there are my great sponsors, Chris Adams – Tall Poppy Real Estate Dunedin, Graeme Paul Motors, Sign It Central and Hillside Panel Beating.