Kiwi World Rally Championship pairing Hayden Paddon and John Kennard will head to the second round of the 2016 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship direct from their maiden WRC round victory at Rally Argentina. The Kiwi duo who outpaced French World Champion Sebastien Ogier to take the first WRC round victory by a New Zealander are set to receive a huge welcoming home from local motorsport fans as they return for their second domestic outing for the Hyundai New Zealand Rally Team.
After a dominant victory at the championships opening round in Otago, Paddon and Kennard hold the NZ Rally Championship (NZRC) lead in their Hyundai i20 as the series moves to the Whangarei event which will be contested over two legs and 275 kilometres of special stages on fast cambered gravel roads.
“I have very fond memories of Whangarei where we won our first ever rally in 2007 and a place that has hosted Rally NZ many times,” states Paddon. “It’s been a few years since we were last there but they are amazing roads, jumping over the huge cambers is an experience you get no where else. We really looking forward to getting the new Hyundai out on the North island roads – continue the development and put on a show for the fans.”
Second in the championship standings is the Nelson Subaru pairing of Ben Hunt and Tony Rawstorn. The defending champion enjoyed a successful debut of his all new Subaru WRXSTI finishing second at the Otago opener after a fierce battle with the Mitsubishi of Tauranga driver David Holder and co-driver Jason Farmer. Hunt had a great run at Whangarei in 2015 finishing second to American Superstar Ken Block and will be looking for a repeat performance to further his championship defence. Holder had a big accident while in contention during last years Whangarei event and will be seeking to make amends as he focuses on securing championship points.
Auckland driver Andrew Hawkeswood holds fourth in the championship following a strong performance of his new generation Mazda 2 at round one ahead of the consistent front running Tauranga pairing Phil Campbell and Venita Fabbro.
The current depth of New Zealand rallying is demonstrated by the number of drivers and cars outside the top five seeds, all capable of a podium result. New Zealands fastest female rally driver Emma Gilmour will be seeking redemption after turbo failure stopped her opening round charge in the Suzuki Swift, Subaru drivers Lance Williams and Matt Summerfield have both been podium placers at Whangarei previously, while former Junior Champion Sloan Cox in his Mitsubishi Evo X and Skoda Fabia driver Glenn Inkster showed great speed at the opening round only to endure niggling car issues. An exciting addition to the field is New Zealand Asia Pacific Championship driver Mike Young with co-driver Malcolm Read. Young drives a Subaru Impreza for the Japanese based Cusco Team in the APRC series and as multiple production champion will provide added competition.
Add to the mix ever consistent Mitsubishi drivers Graham Featherstone, Dylan Turner and Brian Green, the return of the exciting Volkswagen Polo of Shannon Chambers and Dunlop Driver of the Rally from the opening round Kaiapoi’s Richard Baddock and Rally Whangarei is set for a spectacular showdown amongst New Zealand’s best rally drivers.
The 2WD category witnesses the return of defending champion Max Bayley and his Ford Fiesta R2 to the series. Cambridge Ford Escort driver Anthony Jones secured a popular class win in Open 2WD at the opening round ahead of the vastly experienced 2WD exponent Dave Strong (Honda Civic) with championship rookies Dylan Thompson (Ford Fiesta) and Jack Williamson (Suzuki Swift) impressing on debut.
Defending BNT Classic Category Champion Marcus Van Klink and his crowd favourite Group B Mazda RX7 will face a strong challenge from the Ford Escort BDA’s of Jeff Judd and Tony Gosling. The prestigious Motogard trophy, as awarded to the winner of Rally New Zealand between 1978 and 1982 is on the line for the best placed classic category finish.
The Gull Rally Challenge category contested over the first leg of the event is set for a fierce competition with leading Mitsubishi drivers Kingsley Jones, Grant Blackberry, Tyler Radovan and Lee Robson pitted against Subaru drivers Wayne Pittams and Barry Varcoe.
Along with being the second round of the 2016 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, The International Rally of Whangarei is the opening round of the 2015 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship featuring international drivers from Germany, India, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
The event commences on the evening of Friday 29th April with a rally show at Te Matau A Pohe in central Whangarei where fans can meet all the cars and stars up close at an autograph session before they attack two passes of the night time Hella Super Special Stage at Pohe Island. Leg one continues on Saturday heading as far north as Kawakawa for eight special stages on the fast flowing cambered roads the rally is famous for, while Sundays final leg heads south of Whangarei for a further six stages. The event is based from the Pacific Ford Service Park adjacent to the Toll Stadium on Port Road where each day the teams can be seen tuning and preparing cars for the 275 kilometres of competitive stages that make-up the event.
Spectating at the rally start, finish and Quayside Town Basin service areas are free with access to rural viewing points costing just $10 per adult per day and $15 for the Ceremonial Start and spectacular Hella Pohe Island Super Special Stage on Friday evening 29th April. Children under the age of 15 are free with a paying adult and paddock parking is available at some locations for a gold coin donation.
A share of all spectator ticket revenue goes to the local community groups that help run the spectator viewing areas. A rally map is available free to download from the spectator info section of the website, or it can be collected from rally headquarters at Toll Stadium (from 27th April). It illustrates prime spectating areas with detailed timings. Spectators are reminded to follow the instructions of marshals and ensure they stand well clear of the road’s edge – and be inside the taped off viewing areas.
Full event information available at: www.rallywhangarei.co.nz
2016 Brian Green Property Group NZ Rally Championship standings after round one of five
Hayden Paddon 44 points
Ben Hunt 33
David Holder 29
Andrew Hawkeswood 22
Phil Campbell 20