Marking the year's second NZRC event, the South Canterbury Rally played host to another two MITO apprentices this past May. One of the MITO representatives was Sophie Woods, a light automotive engineering apprentice from Ashburton.

Having grown up attending Speedway events with her father, Sophie was no stranger to the world of motorsports. Eager to put her skills to the test at the highest level, Sophie applied with hopes of experiencing the rallies firsthand. “Me and my dad used to watch it [Rallies] and go to Ruapuna Speedway, and I thought, well, what if I put myself up there and actually do it myself and give it a go”.

Sophie was ecstatic to be selected, stating that both Hayden Paddon and Emma Gilmour are idols of hers. “I grew up watching them when I was younger, and I was just like a little girl, so excited to meet them and talk about their rally cars!”

“When you see these rally cars, everything's just high spec – the suspension, steering, the interior, everything. The computer technology is way fancier than the normal automotive stuff, there’s a lot of expensive technology involved.”

When it came time to get to work, Sophie was able to lean on the skills she had acquired throughout her apprenticeship. “We had to check the brakes, which I do already as a mechanic, but you have to look more thoroughly to see if there's any dirt or stones in the calipers that could cause brake issues. I took my skills from the mechanical side into the rally, and I thought I was pretty on to it - I was quick doing tire rotations and checking the tires”.

There is an inherent intensity to professional motorsport - where there are high speeds, there are high stakes. Sophie explained that while she felt these pressures at times, Hayden, Emma, and the wider team were very welcoming and generous with their experience. “The team was so cool. They gave me so much advice for the future”.

Following the rally, Sophie was left with a newfound understanding of the possibilities that lay in the motorsport space. “It was very eye-opening to see the opportunities you can have being part of a team like that. It was really amazing to see how it all worked and how everyone worked together. It really inspired me to want to get out there and do more.”

For Sophie, experiencing the rally was, “a dream come true”, and for those interested in applying, she had this advice: “Take the risk, give it a go. You may be really nervous at the start, but when you are actually there it's really good”.

Applications for both the Daybreaker (Palmerston North) and Whangārei rallies are still open!