Co-driver Samantha Gray would eventually like to compete overseas


Rising rally co-driver star Samantha Gray is starting to find some real traction.

Timaru-born Gray, who is a 4th year Lincoln University student, has been selected to attend the Rally New Zealand co-drivers academy.

Gray said it was the first time a specific co-drivers academy has been run and it was the first of its type in the world.

Rally New Zealand have enlisted professional rally co-drivers Alex and Rhianon Gelsomino to host the academy.

Italian born but now American based, Alex is well known as the man in the co-driver's seat for World Rally and Gymkhana superstar Ken Block and has competed in New Zealand on several occasions.

The 22-year-old Gray started competing two years ago and has already been a recipient of the Paddon Rally Foundation grant.

Gray's dream is to one day compete internationally.

Gray was also one of eight selected from all four-wheel motorsport divisions for the Motorsport NZ Elite Motorsport Academy in July and will now also attend the co-drivers academy, along with six other up and comers.

Samantha Gray and Keith Anderson compete in Westland Rally earlier this year.

She has already tasted some success on the road with Timaru driver Keith Anderson in their Mitsubishi Evo 8.

The pair are competing in both the Mainland Rally Series and Category 5a of the New Zealand Rally Championship, with a win already under their belt in Canterbury.

"This year has been a dream year for me, I am very much looking forward to learning from some of the best co-drivers around the world, which should greatly help my ability."

Gray is a third-generation rally competitor.

"Both my parents compete and my grandfather used to as well and also other extended family.

"I grew up watching my parents rally and I've always wanted to give it a go and I got a chance a couple of years ago and haven't looked back."

Her mother Sonya usually co-drives for her father Steve.

"Both my parents have been competing on and off since the 80's, dad also drove in the WRC Rally of New Zealand in 1986, when it was an international event."

Gray said she really enjoys the speed and adrenaline involved in the sport.

"I love the challenge of reading notes and working as a team with the driver.

"When everything is working the feeling of going sideways around a corner or flat out over a blind crest is the best, its hard to describe."   

Gray said it wasn't the easiest job.

"There are so many factors that can go wrong and working around them to get through a stage can be challenging, but that's rallying - its not designed to be easy."

Gray said she would an opportunity overseas at some stage.

"It is a lot harder for Kiwis to get into the European rally scene as we are so far away but it can be done as Hayden Paddon has shown us all."

While her passion is co-driving Gray has also sat behind the wheel on the odd occasion.

Last year she kicked her father out of the driver's seat and into the co-driver's seat at the Lawrence Rally and plans to do the same later this year, but has no long term driving plans.

She has also given away the other sport she excelled at, clay target shooting, to concentrate on co-driving.

"It's to hard to compete in both sports as rallying takes a lot of prep work and time as well as the huge financial constraint, therefore I had to choose between the two.

"Also rallying has a bit more excitement than trap shooting as you could imagine."