Jacks Ridge: a cheesy gimmick, or the future of rallying?

| Photographer Credit: Geoff Ridder

The list of high profile names keep being unveiled for November 15’s brand new ‘Battle of Jacks Ridge’ event.

To be held on Andrew Hawkeswood’s property at Brookby, south east of Auckland, the 2.5km rallysprint event follows on from the City of Auckland Rally the day before.

But while the Auckland rally is open to anyone to contest, the Battle of Jack’s Ridge is an invitation only event, with the competitors hand-picked by the organisers.

For the die hard rally fans, the headline act is Hayden Paddon in his rallysprint-spec Hyundai i20, but they will also see the likes of Ben Hunt, Emma Gilmour, Andrew and Jack Hawkeswood, and Robbie Stokes.

But where the event differs is that it will also include stars from other forms of motorsport.

Names like Bathurst winner Shane van Gisbergen, off roaders Carl Ruiterman and Ben Thomasen, drifter Darren Kelly, speedway star Michel Pickens, and quad bike rider Ian Ffitch.

In reality, while the event will be competitive, it’s been developed (and promoted) more as a made-for-TV affair to attract ticket-buying spectators to a form of motorsport that many would not have witnessed before.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Sure, it’s not traditional rallying as you and I are familiar with, but it certainly doesn’t mean that events like Jack’s Ridge should be discouraged.

In a similar way, the famous Ashley Forest Rallysprint is an event in the same vein. The rules are more fluid and the competition a bit more gimmicky, but it can work.

“It does come across as a bit of a circus, but maybe this is the future of entertaining rallysport,” someone said to me this week. 

Yep, it could be, although I hope not. Rallying in its purest form involves long stages on back-country roads or in deep dark forests, at least in my eyes.

However, if new events like Jacks Ridge can attract spectators from other forms of motorsport, that brings up the potential for new fans, new competitors, and perhaps more importantly, new sponsors.

For as long as we can remember, motorsport has been driven by the almighty dollar, and this isn’t about to change.

Organisers of Rally New Zealand had put significant effort and finances into a round of the World Rally Championship this year, and when that fell on its ear, other alternatives needed to be found.

The Jacks Ridge stage was already set to be a part of the WRC event so, the choice to use it as a promotional tool for rallying (and to make a few dollars as well) is a great result.

2020 hasn’t been anything like what we’d all hoped for, but out of the misery has come a number of positives that will drive motorsport (and society) forward into the future.

The Battle of Jack’s Ridge is one of those positives.

Paddon’s EV rally car set to launch

The attention of the rally world will be on New Zealand on November 4 when Hayden Paddon unveils his new Hyundai Kona EV rally car.

Paddon Rallysport’s 18 month project to build the car is coming to an end, with the 400kW electric rally car to have the wraps taken off it in Auckland.

After starting with a clean sheet of paper, Paddon and his team have been breaking new ground with the Kona, which has had the full support and backing of Hyundai New Zealand.

According to the team, the car has “considerable ‘wow’ factor and the potential to change the face of world motorsport”.

Peter Whitten

Peter has been the editor of RallySport Magazine since its inception in 1989, in both printed and online form. He is a long-time competitor, event organiser and official, as well as working in the media.

http://rallysportmag.com

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