Championship showdown at Wairarapa finale
The 2015 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship is set for its final showdown at the Trusthouse Racetech Daybreaker Rally Wairarapa this weekend. The sixth and final round of the National Rally championship will take place over 156 kilometres of gravel roads in the Manawatu and Wairarapa districts with a battle for the overall championship and four of the classes going down to the wire.
Leading the overall championship points chase is the Nelson Subaru pairing of Ben Hunt and Tony Rawstorn. Hunt has been the form driver of the 2015 championship with a hat-trick of victories in the previous three rounds of the series and is approaching the series final with the same gameplan.
“We will go to Wairarapa and try and do the same as what we have done at every other event this year, drive smooth and fast down the middle of the road and achieve our goal of finishing all six rounds of the championship,” stated the Nelson driver.
A former 2WD and Junior National Rally champion, the 27 year old Subaru driver only needs to finish 16th or better to secure his maiden outright national title. “The Wairarapa event is pretty close to my heart, I have family from the area and love the roads. We’re looking forward to a great event.”
The only driver capable of snatching the title away from Hunt is Tauranga Mitsubishi driver Phil Campbell with co-driver Venita Fabbro. Campbell has consistently been the main challenger to Hunt throughout the championship with a string of podium places. “We are in a strong position to secure second in the championship and take advantage of any problems Ben might have. We’ll just focus on another fast clean run,” stated Campbell.
Behind the two championship contenders a number of drivers are still in contention for the final championship podium position. Te Aroha Subaru driver Lance Williams holds the advantage heading to Wairarapa, with Rangiora brother and sister team of Matt and Nicole Summerfield only four points adrift. Williams and Summerfield are also the two leading contenders for the 2015 Junior Title for drivers under 25 years of age. The consistent performing Graham Featherstone from Te Aroha is a further eleven points behind Summerfield but within striking distance while Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour, series sponsor Brian Green (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo) and Kaiapoi’s Marcus Van Klink all still with a mathematical chance of making the podium.
Outside of the championship battle a number of front running drivers will be seeking a round victory. The return of five time’s national champion Richard Mason at the wheel of his former 2005/06 championship winning Subaru is the main focus of attention. A lack of sponsorship has forced Mason to watch the 2015 season from the side-line, the Masterton driver aiming for a ninth victory at his home event.
Also making a welcome return to the championship at Wairarapa is former national champion Chris West from Timaru. Westy will debut the exciting new Team Ralliart Mitsubishi Mirage Evolution. Auckland’s Andrew Hawkeswood in the spectacular Mazda 2, and Tauranga’s David Holder in the ex Hayden Paddon Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 whilst out of championship contention complete a strong line-up of top dozen seeds all capable of victory.
The class battles see a number of season long battles head to the decider. The BNT Classics has Marcus Van Klink and Dave Neill looking to secure back to back titles in the spectacular Group B Mazda RX7. Tauranga’s Andy Martin and Matt Neill (Mazda RX3) are within striking distance to ensure an all Mazda Rotary battle, while Christchurch Ford Escort BDA pilot Tony Gosling holds third in the Classics.
The Gull Rally Challenge 2WD title is three horse race between the giant killing Toyota Starlet of Justin Glavish, defending class champion Jeff Torkington, and Kaikoura Ford Escort driver Regan Ross.
Unfortunately missing the final round of the championship but already crowned the National 2WD rally champion is Hawkesbay Ford Fiesta driver Max Bayley, one of the stars of the 2015 season with a number of top ten placings.
A field of 73 entries will line-up at the start of the Trusthouse RaceTech Rally Wairarapa with the first car departing the small Manawatu community of Pohangina at 7.40am on Saturday morning. Four stages in the Manawatu area including the longest test, the infamous 31 kilometre Ridge Road test are completed before a further four stages in the Wairarapa district. A total of 156 kilometres of competition is covered before the victory celebrations will be held at the Copthorne Solway in Masterton from 4.00pm on Saturday afternoon.
The Trusthouse Racetech Daybreaker Rally Wairarapa provides great spectator viewing opportunities with a number of spectator vantage points. A rally map is available free to download from the event website www.rallywairarapa.co.nz Spectators are reminded to follow the instructions of marshals.
2015 Brian Green Property Group NZ Rally Championship points after 5 rounds of 6.
1. Ben Hunt (Nelson- Subaru) 130 points
2. Phil Campbell (Tauranga – Mitsubishi) 106
3. Lance Williams (Te Aroha – Subaru) 88
4. Matt Summerfield (Rangiora – Subaru) 84
5. Graham Featherstone (Te Aroha – Mitsubishi) 73