Subaru and Hyundai chase NZ Rally Championship title
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An important New Zealand Rally Championship prize will be fought over during the final round on roads near Raglan this Saturday.
Hayden Paddon has already wrapped up the Gold Star driver’s title and the WRC star is determined to secure the Manufacturer’s award for Hyundai New Zealand, looking for a result that will overhaul the Subaru marque this weekend.
With 2015 champion Ben Hunt (Auckland) contributing most of the points — along with back-up from Jack Williamson (Raglan) — Subaru leads after five rallies with 101 points while Paddon’s four wins for Hyundai has earned 100 points.
Ben Hunt's efforts have put Subaru into a narrow lead in the Manufacturers' Championship and navigator Tony Rawstorn leads the Co-Driver standings. Picture/ INMOTION/Greg Henderson.
Reflecting the increased number of brands now competitive under the AP4 rally car regulations it’s a close top-five with Mitsubishi next on 95 while Holden and Ford are tied with 94 points.
But one title beyond the reach of the Hyundai squad is the co-driver’s award because John Kennard and Malcolm Peden have two wins apiece while sharing duties for Paddon.
Nelson’s Tony Rawstorn — who calls the pace notes for Ben Hunt — leads the standings on 107 points from Gore’s Andrew Graves (co-driver for Josh Marston) on 85. Christchurch’s David Calder (partnering Australian champ Nathan Quinn) has 84 points and Rangiora’s Nicole Summerfield has guided her brother Matt and scored 83 points.
Raglan will also be the decider for the Rally Challenge category where Hawke’s Bay driver Grant Blackberry (Mitsubishi) leads with 88 points from Feilding-based former national champion Geof Argyle (Mitsubishi) on 80 and Kaiapoi’s Marcus van Klink (Mazda RX-8) with 72 points
Saturday’s Hyundai Raglan Rally of the Coast has attracted a 73-strong entry that includes Paddon — who has jetted home from WRC Wales Rally GB last weekend — 2017 champion Andrew Hawkeswood (Mazda2 AP4) and current second place holder Ben Hunt (Subaru).
The New Zealand Championship will again enjoy top-line Australian participation with Brendan Reeves (Mazda2 AP4) and Nathan Quinn — who hadn’t notified which car he’d be driving when the draft entry list was published — continuing their Kiwi campaigns.
The Holden Barina AP4 duo of Josh Marston and Greg Murphy, Audi S1 AP4 driver Dylan Turner, the new Ford Fiesta AP4 of Phil Campbell, Mitsubishi Mirage AP4 driver Matt Summerfield and Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour (Suzuki Swift Maxi) are other potential front runners.
There’s also potential for a trio of FIA R5 cars to take the start in Raglan.
Fast Australian driver Brendan Reeves makes another NZ Rally Championship appearance this weekend in the Force Motorsport Mazda2 AP4. PHOTOGRAPHY INMOTION/Greg Henderson.
Three-time champion Neil Allport (Auckland) will be at the wheel of his Ford Fiesta R5 for the first time in competition and Raana Horan (Auckland) will make is third start in his Skoda Fabia R5. Auckland’s Kingsley Jones is hopeful his new Skoda R5 — a sister car to Horan’s previously campaigned by the MRF Tyres team — will arrive and have its paperwork completed in time to make the start.
The 171.8km itinerary of eight gravel special stages is on roads well known for WRC action in past years with the Raglan airfield providing the start location at 7.30am and the service park.
The loop of two stages north of Raglan have new names but traverse a familiar route. Kauri Flat (21.52km) uses most of the stage traditionally known as Te Akau South and is followed by the Matira (23.43km) stage which uses about three-quarters of the loop known as Te Akau North.
In the afternoon the rally remains closer to Raglan making two loops through the Te Hutewai (11.52km) and the Whaanga Coast (29.77km) stages.
The rally will make visits to the service park at 10.31am, 1.52pm and 3.40pm with the winning crew scheduled for Raglan airfield finish line celebrations at 5.48pm.