"The car is in one piece, so that’s a good start."
As far as an opening gambit goes, Hamish Bond was pretty happy with that.
The triple Olympic gold medallist will make his rallying debut at next year’s Otago Rally as a guest driver.
He had his first practice session in Christchurch yesterday and did not break anything.
The Magnum Motorsport team pleased about that too, he added.
"They didn’t really want to be doing any panel-beating.
The New Zealand and Otago rowing great described himself as a "complete novice".
His driving experience is more Driving Miss Daisy than The Dukes of Hazzard.
"This is the first time I’ve driven a car off-road with any intent. It is virgin territory."
Bond will be racing in the classic category in a 1998 Subaru Impreza.
The vehicle has a top speed of more than 200kmh but the last thing Bond will be doing is looking at the speedo when he is on a gravel road.
"You have to be looking at what is in front of you and what is coming up."
That sounds like a good idea. It is also a change for Bond, who has spent most of his career facing backwards.
He teamed with Eric Murray to win back-to-back gold medals in the pair at the London and Rio Games.
Bond then switched to cycling and won a bronze medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the men’s time trial before returning to rowing and helping the eight-win gold at the Tokyo Games this year.
"I guess I just got tired providing my own horsepower and thought it was time to swap out and get an engine."
Jokes aside, Bond is not planning another career switch.
While he has not made his mind up on whether he will return to rowing and make a bid for a fourth Olympic gold medal, his rallying career is likely to be brief.
His only goal is to complete the rally, embrace the experience and enjoy visiting
the area he hails from.
"It is purely about the experience, meeting people and getting to my hometown. I have no expectation of performing well.
"Just getting from the start to the finish is fine.
"If I’m three hours behind, so be it, so long as I enjoy the process."
The Otago Rally, which will run from April 8-10, begins with a ceremonial start in the Octagon.
- Adrian Seconi. Photo: Euan Cameron