Battle on in Whangarei with new cars, drivers
Supercars star Shane van Gisbergen’s first appearance of the 2023 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship is set to throw more intrigue on the battle at the front of the field in Whangarei.
The second round of the national championship takes place at the International Rally of Whangarei this weekend with Van Gisbergen seeded second behind championship leader and reigning champion Hayden Paddon.
Van Gisbergen showcased terrific speed when he contested Rally Hawke’s Bay and Rally New Zealand last year, earning a second seeding ahead of the likes of Ari Pettigrew and Ben Hunt.
Paddon will start as overwhelming favourite once again in his Hyundai New Zealand i20 Rally2, fresh off an impressive second place finish in the Canary Islands last weekend in the European Rally Championship.
Behind Paddon, Van Gisbergen (LJ Hooker/Giltrap Audi S1 AP4), championship runner up Pettigrew (Manukau Auto Centre Holden Barina AP4) and Hunt (Skoda New Zealand Fabia Rally2) a field of strong contenders are ready to pounce.
Raana Horan (Generator Rental Services Skoda R5), Robbie Stokes (Team Hutchison Ford Fiesta AP4), Jack Hawkeswood (Force Motorsport Toyota Yaris AP4), Todd Bawden (Online Contractors Ford Fiesta Rally2) and Josh Marston (RDL Holden Barina AP4) have all been strong up north before and loom as drivers to watch.
Dylan Thomson and Bryn Jones will debut their brand-new Ford Fiesta Rally4 cars at Whangarei making the NZRC 2WD category fiercely fought. Jackson Clendon will start as favourite with a few more kilometres under his belt in his Rally4 car.
Jordan Grant should not be discounted either in his Suzuki Swift.
Glenn Alcorn (Ford Escort), Daniel Haines (Ford Escort) and Dave Strong (Honda Jazz) look ready for a three-way fight in the Open 2WD class.
John Silcock and Stewart Reid (both Mazda RX-7s) headline the Historic 2WD battle, where the famous Motogard Trophy is up for grabs.
Defending Rally Challenge champion Jeff Ward (Subaru WRX) will be pushed hard by the likes of Dave Sievers (Subaru Impreza), Zeal Jones (Subaru Impreza) and Brian Green (Mitsubishi EVO 9) this weekend.
Sam Byrne (Mitsubishi Lancer) has a prime chance to take maximum points in the Rally Challenge 2WD category while James Macdonald and Hazely Windelborn will go head-to-head in the Group A Challenge.
The event begins on Friday night with a ceremonial opening in downtown Whangarei before two days of gravel stages in the Northland region.