As a freshly baked 19-year-old, Luke Anear had his sights set on a career in motorsport.
He had tracked down a John Briggs Motorsport promoted ex-John Bowe EL Falcon that he wanted to race in the Konica Lites Series (now Super2).
“I saved $85,000 and went there to buy this car and when I got there they asked what I would do for an engine because there was no engine,” Anear told Speedcafe.com.
“Then I realized I didn’t have enough money [to pursue that path].”
Anear’s life revolved around business – he’s now CEO of SafetyCulture – but it’s come full circle that belatedly brought him to the forefront of motorsport.
The 45-year-old made his World Rally Championship debut at the Rally Italia Sardegna last month, aboard a Ford Fiesta Rally2 car and alongside fellow countryman and co-driver Andy Sarandis.
“It’s obviously a childhood dream to be able to compete at this level,” said Anear.
“It’s the stuff you dreamed of as a kid and you think you’d never do, so it’s just incredible that we can compete in the WRC.
“We pinched ourselves when we got to the starting line and it only took us a moment to realize how cool that is.”
The result was a bumpy ride to 29th overall, but the Queenslander will learn a number of lessons to be better prepared for his second outing at Rally Estonia this weekend.
“It’s tough competition, much tougher than the Australian Rally Championship,” he said.
“Of course, the events are longer, not only in terms of the competition kilometers, but it was a total of 1400 km with the transports.
“So we were in the race car for many hours a day, it was hot, around 40 degrees [Celsius] outside with no breeze, and so you’re kind of dealing with the elements and the length, and then you add the fact that we’re in a different country with a different language.
“We knew it was going to be tough, but we probably didn’t realize how tough it was going to be.
“Everyone said Sardinia was the toughest rally on the calendar and there was a lot of wear and tear so our goal was to get through the event.
“And we’re still evolving, we’ve only been using our pacer system for about a year so we’re still refining it, and the first pass of each lap was really just checking our notes.
“We couldn’t commit to our notes as they were brand new notes. The guys we were up against had been taking notes on a lot of these stages for years, so for us we were really happy to get to the end.
“We learned a lot.”
So where did the passion for rallies begin?
“I think probably Carlos Sainz in Perth, I remember him coming around the corner and rolling quite a few times and I think that’s probably around the time I really started following him,” explained Anear.
“Over the years I’ve gotten more engaged and then obviously with [nine-time champion Sebastien] Loeb, this really pulled me back in.
“But I think growing up you always saw that Colin McRae obviously did a lot for the sport even though he only won one world championship so there was always something I followed but I never thought that it would be within my reach.
“And I guess it was kind of a dream that you just put on the shelf.
“I was able to get in the car at a test with Loeb in France last year and to see him it was also on tarmac. I thought this will either blow my mind or get boring, and it was boring.
“He was so smooth and precise, and that’s good driving; it’s not usually Colin McRae’s style, it’s usually the opposite. So getting in the car with Loeb and seeing how refined and precise his inputs were was also quite an amazing experience.”
Anear only bought a rally car in 2018, partly as an escape from a decade of 16-hour workdays.
He finished eighth in his first start in the Australian Rally Championship that year in Tasmania and quickly moved up the pecking order in subsequent events at Adelaide Hills and Coffs Harbour.
Now Anear is less than three months away from competing in Rally New Zealand from 29 September to 2 October, which is the closest thing to a domestic WRC event, and is not ruling out another international outing next year.
“I think initially the plan was to just come here and do a few WRC laps and capitalize on that experience at home in Australia, but it already feels like an unfinished business,” he said.
“I think Sardinia, if we had picked up a bunch of notes from last year it would have been so much better.
“And even though we were 29th with a 12 minute penalty, I think we might have been reasonably competitive if we had worked a note-up.
“So it feels like we can come back next year and do some more, so let’s see what happens over the next few months.”
Anear will this weekend take on WRC event winner Hayden Paddon, who competes in WRC2 this year at select events including Estonia and New Zealand.