The Ben Hunt Motorsport team members have been hard at work in between Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) rounds to further improve Hunt’s Subaru WRX STi, which had its impressive debut at the Rally of Otago earlier this month.
Competing in its first-ever event, the Subaru WRX STi finished second behind WRC driver Hayden Paddon at the Drivesouth Rally of Otago from April 8 to 10. Auckland-based Subaru Brand Ambassador Hunt and Nelson co-driver Tony Rawstorn drove at a consistently quick pace, recording nine, top three stage times over the 17 stages.
“The car ran faultlessly all weekend. It was a huge credit to the team and everyone involved in building the Subaru WRX STi that we came away with second on our first outing. It was more than we could have ever have hoped for,” Hunt, the defending New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) champion, says.
In the short turn around time before this weekend’s second of five NZRC rounds, the International Rally of Whangarei, the Hunt Motorsport team have concentrated on developing the Subaru WRX STi and stripping out some weight.
“Essentially this is a production-based Subaru that anyone can buy from a dealership. In the build process we added in componentry to make it suitable for the rigours of rallying and in the past few weeks the team have removed some of the unnecessary elements, like the windows – replacing them with Perspex – to lighten the car,” Hunt says.
He is looking forward to testing out the improvements over Whangarei’s 275km of challenging gravel stages in the Far North and Whangarei districts to the north and south of Whangarei from Friday to Sunday.
Hunt and Rawstorn had a successful outing at Whangarei last year, as they finished first Kiwis home behind professional American driver Ken Block.
“Whangarei is a whole different environment from down at Otago. The roads are still fast but they have a lot more grip and their cambre is pretty awesome to drive on,” Hunt says.
Hunt is second in the NZRC, 11 points behind Paddon, who is only contesting the Otago and Whangarei Rallies this year. Having completed just two NZRC rounds, Paddon will not be a contender for the overall national title, given his recent Rally Argentina success and future WRC commitments.
The Whangarei Rally is the opening round of the 2016 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship and has attracted eight international entrants from five nations, with a further 45 entrants in the national section of the event.
The action commences with an opening ceremony on Friday night at Pohe Island, Whangarei, from 5pm.