New-gen cars face old-school challenge in Waitomo Rally
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New Zealand’s new generation rally cars face an old school challenge on King Country and Waitomo roads this weekend.
Saturday’s penultimate round of the New Zealand Rally Championship is the Handy Rentals Waitomo Rally with the Hamilton Car Club plotting a six-stage event that will challenge crews with 207km of gravel special stages.
Notably the rally includes five stages which are longer than 30km and the route provides a contrast to the typical modern rally format by featuring no repeated stages. It also means the crews have three times the reconnaissance workload they faced at the previous sprint round at Coromandel.
The Waitomo Rally starts from Pio Pio from 7.50am on Saturday and stays deep in the King Country with service halts planned at Pio Pio, Ohura and Mairoa and using several roads that have a long World Championship pedigree.
After completing the final stage at Hauturu Rd, near Otorohanga the crews tour back to the 5.25pm finish at the Hamilton Car Club in Vaile Rd, Newstead.
The capacity 80-car entry list features some notable changes since the Coromandel event in August.
Defending national champion David Holder (Mt Maunganui, above) will drive his third different car of the season this weekend.
After a winning effort at Otago in Hayden Paddon’s Hyundai i20 AP4 car and a valuable points-scoring drive in a 20-year-old Subaru Impreza at Coromandel, Holder remains in title contention and has been handed the chance to drive the Holden Barina AP4 car campaigned by Greg Murphy at earlier rounds.
Young Hawke’s Bay driver Max Bayley is set to debut a Ford Fiesta R5 this weekend. Bayley won the 2WD national title in 2015 and the Fiesta has been sourced from a Norwegian team and has been prepared by Neil Allport Motorsport. It’s the first time an FIA specification R5 car has lined up in domestic competition.
Canterbury’s Job Quantock, who earlier in the season drove the Paddon Hyundai and an older Mitsubishi Lancer Evo7, will make his first appearance in a Skoda Fabia AP4 car.
The Coromandel event in August saw Auckland driver Andrew Hawkeswood (Mazda2 AP4) take over the lead in the national series.
Hawkeswood has 88 points while Rangiora’s Matt Summerfield (Subaru Impreza WRX STI) is second on 81 points and 2015 champion Ben Hunt (Subaru, above) of Auckland remains in title contention on 70 points. Otago’s Rhys Gardner (Mazda2) is fourth on 67 followed by Holder with 58 points.
Other leading contenders chasing Waitomo success include recent Ashley Forest Rallysprint winner Sloan Cox of Rotorua (Mitsubishi), Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour (Suzuki Swift) and the return of the new Audi S1 AP4 car of Auckland’s Dylan Turner.
Following the Waitomo event the championship finale sees the revival of the Rally of New Zealand title with a new rally based in Tauranga. It features a mixture of Raglan coast and Te Akau stages on Saturday November 25 and a second day between Tauranga and Rotorua on Sunday November 26.
NZ Rally Championship (after round 4 of 6):
1 Andrew Hawkeswood (Auckland) Mazda2 AP4, 88 points
2 Matt Summerfield (Rangiora) Subaru, 81 points
3 Ben Hunt (Auckland) Subaru, 70pts
4 Rhys Gardner (Balclutha) Mazda2 AP4, 67pts
5 David Holder (Mt Maunganui) Hyundai and Subaru, 58pts
6= Job Quantock (Christchurch) Mitsubishi and Hyundai, 51pts
6= Graham Featherstone (Te Aroha) Mitsubishi, 51pts