NZ Rally Champs ready for grippy Whangarei challenge

| Photographer Credit: Terry Marshall

Round two of the 2022 Brian Green Properties New Zealand Rally Championship fires into action on Friday night when crews head north of Auckland for the Rally of Whangarei.

Sixty cars will face the starter for the opening two spectator stages on Pohe Island, before two days of fast-paced competition to the north-west and south-west of the rally base.

Five weeks after the championship opener in Otago, competitors will face a different challenge this weekend.

“The roads aren’t as fast, are less cresty, but have more camber and provide more grip,” Hayden Paddon said this week.

Paddon won at a canter in round one, and while nothing is really expected to change this weekend, he says that the Rally of Whangarei requires a different driving style more than major changes to the car set-up.

“Both rallies are flowing and the roads offer grip, so I’m looking forward to it. All we’ve really done is made a few refinements to address some handling issues from Otago,” he added.

Expect Ben Hunt to be even quicker in his brand new Skoda Fabia R5 – Photo: Terry Marshall

His rivals are all eager to get back behind the wheel again too, but whether any of them can challenge the flying Hyundai driver remains to be seen.

Otago Rally runner-up, Ben Hunt, will be more at ease in his new factory-supported Skoda Fabia Rally2 and should be on the money right from the first stage, as should Robbie Stokes, who had a few issues to overcome in round one.

Now with Ford support for his Fiesta AP4, Stokes will unveil a new livery on Friday night, and backed up Paddon’s view of the roads.

“We have changed the set-up to suit the cambered roads at Whangarei and will continue changing the car throughout the rally,” he said.

Emma Gilmour (SS15 Rally Otago) Photo: Terry Marshall

The battle for the podium positions will be hard fought. Raana Horan was third at Otago (ahead of Stokes), while Emma Gilmour finally discovered some reliability from her Suzuki Swift and will be hoping for a similar result.

“It’s a very competitive field,” she says.

“We will be aiming for a trouble free run and then I think the speed will have have us in the top 3-5.”

A complete engine and gearbox rebuild should have Jack Hawkeswood’s Toyota Yaris AP4 further near the front of the field, and the youngster is hoping to push for a better result.

As is Ari Pettigrew, another future star, who had his first event in the ex-Greg Murphy Holden Barina AP4 last month.

“We’ve made no major changes, just some set-up changes to get the car handling the way I want it to,” he said.

“I’m still getting used to the new car as it’s completely different to what I am used to. We will be slowly building on our pace throughout the year as I get more experience and confidence behind the wheel of the Barina.”

Ari Pettigrew (Holden Barina AP4)

Matt Summerfield is another who’ll be hoping for a strong showing after an early retirement in Dunedin. The team have made some small improvements to the Mitsubishi Mirage AP4, but further updates are expected by the next event at South Canterbury.

One man who’ll be missing this weekend is Dylan Turner in the crowd-pleasing Audi AP4. Turner and his wife are expecting a baby this weekend.

“A new member for the service crew,” he mused.

After missing the Otago Rally after contracting COVID-19, Josh Marston returns to the fray in his Barina AP4, with Todd Bawden (Fiesta R5) and Kingsley Jones (Skoda R5) also inside the top 10 starters.

Dylan Thomson is the highest seeded two-wheel drive car (21st in his Fiesta R2), ahead of John Silcock’s Group B Mazda RX7, and the Escorts of Shane Murland and Anthony Jones.

The International Rally of Whangarei is also a round of the 2022 Asia Pacific Rally Championship’s Pacific Cup.

Eighteen stages and 254 kilometres of competitive driving awaits the crews over the three days.

Follow the results on the ChrisSport website at: www.chrissport.co.nz

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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