Battle royale expected at South Canterbury
A wide open third round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship beckons on the lightning-fast South Canterbury roads this weekend.
With 2023 championship leader Hayden Paddon not able to compete at this round, the door is open for the likes of Ben Hunt (Skoda New Zealand Rally 2), Raana Horan (Generator Rental Services Skoda Rally 2), Ari Pettigrew (Manukau Auto Centre Holden Barina AP4), Robbie Stokes (Team Hutchinson Ford Fiesta AP4) and Josh Marston (RDL Holden Barina AP4) to challenge for the rally win.
Hunt can win the 2023 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship by winning at South Canterbury and claiming the maximum power stage points while finishing second to Paddon at the two remaining rounds (including in the power stage).
The likes of Horan, Pettigrew, Stokes and Marston have shown enough speed to be able to rival Hunt, and so a genuine outright speed battle is likely to determine the rally.
The talented Stephen Barker could be a dark horse in the Online Contractors Ford Fiesta Rally 2 car as he replaces Todd Bawden for the round. Mike Young (Cusco Toyota C-HR) and Haydn Mackenzie (Albany Toyota Yaris AP4) will also be in the mix.
A real battle is expected in the NZRC 2WD class where Dylan Thomson (Ford Fiesta) edged Jackson Clendon (Ford Fiesta) at Whangarei last time out but the latter holds a narrow championship lead.
Jordan Grant (Suzuki Swift), Bryn Jones (Ford Fiesta), Charlie Evans (Honda Civic) and Tim Mackersy (Ford Fiesta) would all be in the mix for a podium as well.
In the Open 2WD battle Glenn Alcorn (Ford Escort) starts as favourite with a couple of rivals not making the trip south. Peter Farrell (Mazda RX7), JP van der Meys (Ford Fiesta) and Murray Percival (Ford Escort) will look to keep the Perth-based Irishman honest.
The Historic 2WD class gets a boost with former national champion Marcus van Klink (Mazda RX7) joining the battle at South Canterbury. He will be a target for championship leader John Silcock (Mazda RX7) and class winner at Whangarei Stewart Reid (Mazda RX7).
After an brilliant drive at Rally Whangarei all eyes will be on youngster Zeal Jones (Subaru Impreza) in the Rally Challenge 4WD class. His battle with defending class champion Jeff Ward (Subaru WRX) will be worth keeping close tabs on while Brian Green (Mitsubishi EVO 9) and the Subaru H6 entrants of Tim Smith, James Macdonald and Paul Cross could feature.
Jonty Brenssell returns to the Rally Challenge 2WD class in his Toyota Starlet and will be favourite ahead of the likes of Brett Maddren (Toyota Starlet) and Jared Parker (Toyota Corolla).
Stadium Finance Rally South Canterbury begins with a ceremonial opening in downtown Timaru on Friday night before 10 special stages across Saturday – the final being a blast around Levels Raceway.