Rotorua's Sloan Cox is one of 11 drivers in Finland this week at the RX Academy coaching camp, the first step in his goal of building an international career in rally cross.
The 26-year-old two-time New Zealand Junior Rally champion has stepped away from domestic competition, deciding to focus on rally cross - a high-octane blend of rallying and circuit racing run on specially-constructed tarmac and gravel rally cross tracks.
Cox is the first New Zealander to apply and be accepted to the academy, which is the starting point for many rally cross competitors, offering competitors professional coaching in driving, mental and physical fitness, media and PR.
Before he left for Finland, Cox said he was looking forward to "soaking up every scrap of information" he could from the three-day coaching camp.
Ten days later he heads to a one-day test in Strangnas where he will get his first taste of the factory-built Renault Clio RS RX car, which are identical for all academy drivers. The test day will include on-track sessions and coaching, and out of the car Cox will work with academy coaches to analyse data about the car's performance and video footage to see where he can improve.
On May 6, he tackles the first of five RX Academy events, the opening round run at the Holjes Motorstadion in Sweden, a track known as the home of Swedish rally cross, having hosted its first rally cross event in 1976.
"There's a lot ahead for me to take on board. The three-day camp will be filled with fitness and mental training, learning to understand the data from the car, meeting the team at SET Promotion which runs the RX Academy and the other competitors, so lots to learn and people to meet.
"The big goal this year is about adapting the skills I have from rally to rally cross. I've done some circuit racing with other cars around me, but nothing like this intensity of competition, which is obviously very different to rallying when you're the only car on the road during each stage," Cox said.