Ben Hunt may have wrapped up the 2019 New Zealand Rally Championship, but he already has his eyes on what next season might bring.
The two-time champion clinched this year’s title at Coromandel, delivering another brilliant drive that gave he and Subaru their second title together, with one round remaining in October.
In the short term though, any upcoming drives are under a cloud with the diesel mechanic currently recovering from an arm injury
“Luckily, I didn’t break any bones, but it gave the tendons a pretty hard time,” Hunt told Talk Motorsport.
“We were supposed to be doing the Rally of the Far North in a couple of weeks, but at this stage that may not happen.”
On the stages this year, Hunt has clearly been the pick of the bunch, winning all five NZRC rounds to date in his Subaru WRX STI.
He appears set to be Subaru mounted again in 2021 in the STI
“We’ve done four years in the current car, so it’s probably time for a big freshen up.
“The current car still uses the factory wiring loom, which is quite heavy, and we’re pretty much running a Group N car with R4 suspension and a sequential gearbox.
“The car weighs 1400+kg, and while there are a few carbon bits on it, there is still a lot that SpeedHub Motorsport want to do in regards to improving the car.
“There’s a fair bit we could do to make the car light and faster.”
Looking further ahead, the Auckland based driver would love to tackle Rally New Zealand next year if, as expected, it makes a return to the World Rally Championship.
“I’ve always wanted to do Rally New Zealand in a four-wheel drive car, especially a Subaru, as I’ve only ever contested it in front-wheel drive cars,” he added.
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NZ Exodus Primed for November
Hayden Paddon’s inclusion in the M-Sport World Rally Team squad for two more WRC events this season is music to the ears of New Zealand rally fans.
After his Rally Finland heartbreak, Paddon will drive a Ford Fiesta R5 at Wales Rally GB in October, before finishing the season in a Fiesta World Rally Car on one of his favourite events, Rally Australia.
It was in Australia last year that Paddon took second place on his final outing for the Hyundai WRC team, and news of his ‘down under’ return has generated massive interested locally.
“We are really excited to get back behind the wheel. After the disappointment of Finland there was no way we could let that be the end of it and, together with M-Sport, we have worked hard to find some solutions,” Paddon said.
“I’m really looking forward to driving M-Sport’s new R5 MkII on an event we are familiar with and will aim to showcase its capabilities. It’s also good to get more seat time which, combined with testing both the R5 and the WRC, is something we have been lacking this year.
“But getting back in the World Rally Car at Rally Australia will be the real highlight, and I can’t wait.”
Dozens of Kiwi fans are already getting their travel plans to Coffs Harbour sorted so that they can see their hero in action, with Paddon even organising a last-minute spectator tour for his Paddon’s Pack fans.
With currently more top level WRC drivers than there are cars on offer, both Wales Rally GB and Rally Australia will be important events as Paddon plans for 2020.
While a good result in both events certainly won’t define his future, it certainly won’t hurt either.