Ben Hunt top-seed heading into Rally of Canterbury
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The Lone Star Rally of Canterbury holds the potential for some Queen’s Birthday weekend winter weather conditions and will challenge 66 crews with a Sunday route including 10 special stages in the Ashley and Okuku Forests that loop from a service park in Rangiora.
Hayden Paddon’s domination of the 2018 series will be interrupted as the Hyundai drivers remains in Europe to prepare for WRC Rally Sardinia the following weekend. Paddon leads the national series with a perfect score of 88 points following the two-day events in Otago and Whangarei.
It will be second placed Ben Hunt (Auckland) with 70 points that will lead the field away from the 8am start in Rangiora on Sunday in his Subaru WRX STI. This weekend is a vital opportunity for Hunt to score maximum points and apply some pressure on Paddon when the Hyundai driver returns to the domestic series at the new Timaru event in late-June.
The seeding list this weekend has a different look to the first two rounds in Otago and Whangarei with a number of the front-runners absent from the Canterbury entry.
Otago’s Rhys Gardner (Mazda2 AP4), Auckland’s Dylan Turner (Audi S1 AP4) along with Mitsubishi drivers Richard Galbraith (Timaru) and Graeme Featherstone (Te Aroha) haven’t entered the Canterbury event.
But there’s one notable addition to the championship ranks with the rally debut of a new Ford Fiesta AP4 car for Tauranga’s Phil Campbell and a reshuffle in another Ford with Australian champion Nathan Quinn taking over the Fiesta Proto driven in early season events by Australia-based Irishman Richie Dalton.
Rangiora’s Matt Summerfield will be looking to repeat the win he scored at his home event 12 months ago. Summerfield is seeded second in the Ralliart Mitsubishi Mirage AP4 ahead of Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour (Suzuki Swift AP4), Quinn, Christchurch’s Josh Marston in his Holden Barina AP4, Campbell and Greg Murphy, who returns to rally action after missing the Whangarei event.
Emma Gilmour has shown strong pace this season and is seeded third for the Canterbury event in her Suzuki Swift AP4. Photo / Greg Henderson
Auckland’s Raana Horan, former national champ Geof Argyle (Feilding) and Christchurch’s Michael Tall complete the top-10 starters in their Mitsubishis.
In the two-wheel-drive ranks its Historic class competitors Regan Ross (Ford Escort), Deane Buist (VW Golf GTi) and John Silcock (Mazda RX-7) and the crowd-pleasing 2WD Open class triple-rotor Mazda RX-8 of Kaiapoi’s Marcus van Klink who head the entry list.
The Canterbury Rally has 162.13km of gravel special stages with the final two stages expected to be completed in darkness.
The rally makes five visits to the main service park in Rangiora before the crews tour into Christchurch for a 7pm finish ceremony in Manchester St.
2018 New Zealand Rally Championship (after round 2 of 6):
1 Hayden Paddon (Wanaka) Hyundai i20 AP4, 88pts
2 Ben Hunt (Auckland) Subaru WRX STI, 70pts
3= Matt Summerfield (Rangiora) Mitsubishi Mirage AP4, 43pts
3= Emma Gilmour (Dunedin) Suzuki Swift AP4, 43pts
5 Josh Marston (Christchurch) Holden Barina AP4, 38pts
6 Regan Ross (Kaikoura) Ford Escort RS1800, 32pts