Round five of the six-round New Zealand Rally Championship fires into action this Saturday with the running of the Goldrush Rally of Coromandel.
Subaru driver Ben Hunt can clinch his second national title with another strong performance, having already won all four events so far this season.
Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawstron have been the stars of the field and have perhaps been a surprise as well, given that their larger and heavier WRX should be at a disadvantage against the lighter and more nimble R5 and AP4 cars.
It’s a testament to Hunt’s ability that he has been so dominant.
The only man who can beat Hunt for the title is Josh Marston in his Holden Barina AP4, but he and Andrew Graves would require lots of luck from here on in to wrest the title.
Dylan Thomson has shown great speed this year, having moved from a Ford Fiesta into a Subaru WRX, and he sits third in the title race, but nearly 80 points shy of leader Hunt.
The leading two-wheel exponent is the fourth placed Marcus van Klink, although the popular flame thrower is facing a race against time to be fit for Coromandel.
The RX8 pilot was struck down with appendicitis early on Tuesday morning, and a stay in hospital and the resultant surgery may just rule him out for this weekend.
The 62-car Coromandel Rally entry list includes most of New Zealand’s leading rally stars.
Dylan Turner returns in his exciting Audi S1 AP4, and there are also AP4 spec cars for Phil Campbell (Fiesta), Emma Gilmour (Suzuki), Jack Hawkeswood (Mazda) and Job Quantock (Skoda).
Skoda Fabia R5s are in the hands of Raana Horan and Kingsley Jones, while New Caledonian veteran Jean-Louis Leyraud will drive a Ford Fiesta R5.
The impressive Stephen Barker is the highest place ‘traditional’ 4WD in the field, and will start from position six in his Lancer Evo 9.
The eight stage Rally of Coromandel offers up 126.60 kilometres of competitive stages, the longest being 22.78km Coroglen test.
The rally concludes with a new Super Special Stage around Dakota Drive, located at the Whitianga Airport.