Big field set for championship battle at Rally Gisborne
The 2015 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship is set for a titanic battle at round four FUCH’s Rally Gisborne, with one of the strongest championship line ups in recent years to take the start line at round four in Gisborne on Saturday 27th June. Championship leader Ben Hunt heads the 53 car field which also includes the return of five times national champion Richard Mason to the NZRC for the first time in 2015.
The Nelson pairing of Ben Hunt and Tony Rawstorn the current point’s leader in the NZRC are seeded one in their Subaru Impreza. Hunt and Rawstorn have been consistent pace setters in the three championship rounds to date and head to Gisborne fresh from victory at the Canterbury Rally on Queens Birthday weekend. The Subaru driver has built a reputation as a specialist in the tighter twisty stages. With FUCH’s Rally Gisborne featuring the infamous Motu stage, a 46 kilometre test winding from Opotiki through the ranges to the small settlement of Motu, Hunt will start as one of the favourites.
Second seed for Rally Gisborne and second in the championship is the Tauranga pairing of Phil Campbell and Venita Fabbro. The Mitsubishi driver has been the main challenger to Hunt so far this season with a consistent and mature display of speed.
Te Aroha driver Graeme Featherstone (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7) with co-driver Dave Davenport have shown great consistent to score points at all three NZRC rounds to date and hold third in the championship standings heading to Gisborne, with fellow Te Aroha driver Lance Williams seeded at fourth with co-driver Crunch Bennett in their Subaru Impreza. Rounding out the top five seeds and championship positions is Brian Green and Fleur Pedersen in the Team Ralliart New Zealand Mitsubishi Evo X.
Making a welcome return to the NZRC after missing the first three rounds are defending champions Richard and Sara Mason. The five times national championship winning team have reunited with their championship winning car from the 2005 and 06 seasons which they will campaign at Gisborne.
Canterbury brother and sister team Matt and Nicole Summerfield start at seven in their rebuilt Subaru Impreza and are looking to bounce back to form shown earlier in the season after a disappointing end to their home rally with a rollover. Dunedins Emma Gilmour seeded eighth, will be looking to continue the form she displayed at the last round where her Suzuki Swift finished 4th overall and challenged for top three stage times. Completing the top ten seeds are Auckland drivers Andrew Hawkeswood in the spectacular Mazda 2, and Dylan Turner (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9).
Heading the entry in the Gull rally Challenge category is Timaru driver Darren Galbraith. The Mitsubishi driver was the sensation of the last round with a second overall finish behind Ben Hunt. Taking the challenge to Galbraith are a host of drivers lead by Kingsley Jones (Auckland – Mitsubishi) and Richard Bateman (Blenheim – Mitsubishi), both winners of the category at rounds this year.
The BNT Historic field is again headed by defending class champion Marcus Van Klink from Kaiapoi in the spectacular Group B Mazda RX7. Van Klink will face competition from former National champion and fellow Canterbury resident Brian Stokes (Ford Escort RS1800) and Tauranga’s Andy Martin (Mazda RX3).
Hawkesbays Max Bayley is the leading two wheel drive entry in his Ford Fiesta R2, Bayley setting top five stage times at the last round of the championship demonstrating his undeniable talents. The Gull Rally challenge 2WD field will feature a tough battle between Ford Escort drivers Regan Ross and Anthony Jones and the Toyota’s of Justin Glavish and defending class champion Jeff Torkington.
FUCHs Rally Gisborne is the fourth round of the 2015 Brian Green Property Group NZ Rally Championship and welcomes the return of classic rally stages including Motu, Whakarau, and Raukaroa to national competiton. A total field of 53 cars will take the start on Saturday 27th June.
Photos: Geoff Ridder.