The race is on
Grant Bowler. Picture: Supplied

The Australian version of the Amazing Race franchise is on again and host Grant Bowler could not be more delighted to be taking part - particularly as this one exploits the traditional rivalry between Australia and New Zealand.

It is something he is very familiar with. Born in Auckland to a Kiwi mother who later moved to Queensland and married an Aussie, he has spent his whole life metaphorically straddling the trans-Tasman divide.

When he went home to New Zealand for Christmas, he says, he was too much of an Aussie but in Australia he was tagged a Kiwi.

But he won't be taking sides.

"I will stand firmly in the middle," he laughed. "Aussies and Kiwis are different but they have one thing in common - they both punch far above their weight on the world stage and that is one reason this show will work so well."

Bowler, now a successful international actor (Defiance, True Blood), lives in California but gets back to Australia as often as he can.

We spoke just before he headed to the Northern Territory to start the 10 teams of racers in Seven's The Amazing Race Australia v New Zealand.

It is the third time Bowler has hosted the show - the last time, in 2012, The Amazing Race Australia won an International Emmy.

This series, he announces at the starting line at the foot of Uluru, will be different - not just because the teams will be competing for their country as well as the $250,000 final prize, but also because there will be bigger rewards for the winners of each section.

The competition starts immediately with the countries having to stage a tug of war in the red dirt with the prize a head start to the airport for the first leg.

Australia looks to have an advantage because its team is anchored by WA man-mountain Tyson Smith. The personal trainer has teamed up with his veterinarian girlfriend Sally Yamamoto to form one of two teams from WA.

The other is made up of Inga Lederhaus and Tiharna McGregor. Though they met at a modelling competition, they promise to offer brains as well as beauty - Lederhaus is a CPA accountant and McGregor works as a personal assistant to a group of stockbrokers.

Australia's other teams include a mother- and-son combo, two intensive care nurses, and blond newlyweds from Victoria.

From across the ditch come a brother and sister, two Maori women whose motto is kia kaha (be strong), a married couple, two feisty friends and a couple of athletes who call themselves Raspberry and Coke.

The 10 teams will set a cracking pace over the coming weeks as they cover 90,000km and 10 countries.

Bowler admits it is sometimes hard for the production crew to keep up with the lead racers and there have been times when he has arrived at the pit stop only minutes before the first team.

"Once we barely had time to unfold the mat," he said. "No host in the history of the series has been beaten to the pit stop and, touch wood, I will not be the first."

He admits there have been a few lowlights that have not made it to the screen.

"One team was nine hours late. We had arrived before dawn and when it got dark they still were not there so we had to pack up and go to look for them."

Bowler loves travel and being on the road with his film crew. He lists Prague and the Old City of Jerusalem as among his personal highlights when filming The Amazing Race but at the top of his list was the time when for just five minutes everyone was cleared out of the heart of Hagia Sophia cathedral in Istanbul.

"I am probably one of the few people in the world to have done that," he said.

"I also just love to watch the racers. They go through so much but it is something they will always have to look back on. The links they made will last forever."

The West Australian

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