North and South: a look at this weekend's rally double feature
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New Zealand rallying offers a double serve of action this weekend with events running in both islands.
A field of 46 crews is heading north to contest the Copthorne Bay of Islands Rally of the Far North, only the third gravel rally to be held on North Island roads this year.
The Far North rally makes an early start from Paihia at 6.45am on Saturday and there are eight stages that loop anti-clockwise through the Far North region with a late-morning break at Kaitaia. The finish is at the Copthorne Bay of Islands resort at 4.20pm.
The rally is the penultimate round of the Top Half Rally Series which will be decided at the Waitomo event on October 19.
There is 164km of competitive driving on the itinerary and the leading drivers include Dylan Turner (Pukekohe) in his Audi S1 AP4 car, newly crowned national champion Ben Hunt (Subaru) and Auckland’s Kingsley Jones in his Skoda Fabia R5.
Other contenders include Subaru driver Ben Thomasen and the Mitsubishi Lancers of Todd Bawden and Matt Jensen.
The South Island action is the annual WinMax Brake Pads Ashley Forest Rallysprint with an entry headed by Hayden Paddon who has further developed his Hyundai i20 AP4 car into an Unlimited 4WD specification with major aerodynamic changes and increased horsepower.
Paddon’s main rival is likely to be Rotorua’s Sloan Cox with his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo. Cox was the 2017 rallysprint winner and remains holder of the 1.7km sprint course record at 54.96secs — a benchmark that Paddon nudged last year with a 55.00secs run before being sidelined with engine problems.
A car making a popular return to the event is the Mitsubishi Starion V8 of Waihi driver Graeme Bjerring. The car is a two-time winner of the rallysprint in the mid-1990s driven by the late Kim Austin.
Outside of the Unlimited Class entries the leading contenders for rally car honours are three-time rallysprint winner Matt Summerfield (Rangiora) driving his Subaru Impreza WRX STI and Darfield’s Garet Thomas (Subaru), the recently crowned Mainland rally Series champion.
The rallysprint has a strong entry of small capacity cars, Unlimited 2WD cars and classic rally cars competing for class honours.