After his performance last Saturday at the Kennedy Park Resort Napier Rally Hawke’s Bay, should Canterbrian Robbie Stokes now be regarded as the second fastest rally driver in New Zealand behind Hayden Paddon? Or does that honour fall to the driver sitting second overall on the New Zealand Rally Championship points table, Ben Hunt?
While Hayden Paddon won all six special stages at Rally Hawke’s Bay, Stokes was second six times. He finished 3min 56.3 sec behind Paddon and was still a clear 1:37.4 ahead of third placed Raana Horan.
It’s been a topsy-turvy season for Stokes and his co-driver sister Amy who, up until Hawke’s Bay, hadn’t finished any of the three preceding rounds of the national championship and currently sits in 15th position overall. Reliability has let down this family team but when they have been competing, Stoke has been second more times than third, fourth, fifth or worse on completed special stages.
At the opening round in Otago, and sitting third overall, they pulled out with a turbo issue with five stages to go. The pair were sitting second behind Paddon in the second round at Whangarei before retiring with three stages to go.
Ill-luck was to hit them on the opening stage of Rally South Canterbury withdrawing before any times were on the board.
Of the 20 special stages that Stokes has completed over the four rounds of the national rally championship, 60% have resulted in finishing second (runner up) to Paddon.
In the end, history is likely to show that Robbie Stokes finished the 2021 season outside the top five and that Ben Hunt finished second. The true answer could be gained by asking the top five competitors, including Hayden Paddon, who is their fastest rival?