The future of New Zealand rallying looks to be in safe hands, with a raft of young drivers starting to push the limits.
Last weekend’s South Canterbury Rally saw the stunning emergence of 23-year old Robbie Stokes as a real outright contender.
In just his second run in the Stokes Motorsport Ford Fiesta AP4 (main picture) , Stokes initially led the rally, before taking a solid second place behind the experience Matt Summerfield.
Like Jack Hawkeswood, the son of former NZ Champion Andrew, Robbie is the son of double New Zealand champion, Brian Stokes.
And also like Hawkeswood, Stokes has set his sights high.
“It’s my goal to become New Zealand Rally Champion and you won’t achieve that if you’re not prepared to have a go,” Stokes said this week.
The Canterbury driver is ticking all the boxes as far as developing his career is concerned. He started off in a Toyota Levin, before moving to a Fiesta R2, and has now taking to the 4WD, turbocharged AP4 Fiesta with aplomb.
Hawkeswood has also impressed this year as well, taking event wins and coming to grips with his Mazda 2 AP4.
When the NZ Rally Championship fires back into action in April next year, it may be the young guns of the sport who make the biggest headlines.
The experienced drivers – the Summerfields, the Mastons, the Gilmours and the Hunts – may have their work cut out. There are exciting times ahead!
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Hollywood ‘tyred’ of WRC absence
2003 World Rally Champion, Petter Solberg, will be co-driven by former WRC star Andreas Mikkelsen on stages of next month’s Rally Sardinia.
The duo will compete on selected stages of the event in a Pirelli-liveried Citroen C3 WRC to further test the Italian brand’s new Scorpion KX WRC tyre.
From 2021, Pirelli will be the official tyre of the WRC, replacing Michelin.
The new tyre will be driven in public for the first time at the shakedown of the world championship event on Thursday October 8, driven by Andreas Mikkelsen, Pirelli’s development driver.
The Norwegian will be giving passenger rides to selected journalists to demonstrate the capabilities of the new tyre on rough gravel over the 3.79-kilometre Olmedo stage.
Three days later, the Pirelli Scorpion KX will receive its ‘competition’ debut in the hands of a World Rally Champion. Petter Solberg, who won the 2003 world title with Pirelli.
Solberg will drive the rally-ending Wolf Power Stage, which covers 6.89 kilometres. He will be co-driven by Mikkelsen in the Pirelli Citroen, having last driven a Citroen DS3 WRC during the 2011 WRC season.
The duo will be first into the stage, showcasing the new Pirelli tyre before the competitive action begins.
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Repco back 2020’s biggest rally extravaganza
New Zealand’s largest auto parts and car accessories retailer, Repco, will be the naming rights sponsor of the Battle of Jack’s Ridge in November.
Repco has been a previous naming rights sponsor of Rally New Zealand and has recently announced a new deal to sponsor the Supercars Championship in Australia as well as the iconic Bathurst 1000.
“Repco has been proudly associated with rally on New Zealand’s epic gravel roads for many years including the Race to the Sky and the Repco Westland Rally,” Executive General Manager of Repco, Jonathon Maddren said.
“The fantastic new track at Jacks Ridge is going to be a spectator’s dream so we’re really excited to be involved.
“The Repco Battle of Jack’s Ridge is set to be an event every motorsport fan is going to love and with this field of drivers the Battle is on!”
Rally New Zealand chairman Peter Johnston said the partnership was a natural fit.
“Repco have been tremendous supporters of motorsport in New Zealand for a very long time and were quick to jump at the opportunity to partner with us for this exciting event.
“We really think this is going to be a rally sprint that will take the sport to new levels and we look forward to sharing that journey with our friends at Repco.”
The Jack’s Ridge WRC Power-Stage has been built around the natural landscape of former national champion Andrew Hawkeswood’s Whitford property, utilising the undulations, ridges and valleys of the Whitford private property in which it sits.
It has been described as “amazing to drive” by the few drivers that have been privileged to sample the course while the view for the fans is simply mind-blowing.