By the numbers – Google Grant’s key stats for Southern Lights Rally


After a 20 year break and with the aid of the enthusiastic team of the MotorSportNZ Award Winning R2G (Race Rally Group), led by Tony McConachy and Paul Fallon, the NZRC makes a well overdue return to the fast challenging roads of The Deep South.


2004 was the last time we were there in a season that marked not only the end of the six year domination of the two Manawatu champions – Geof Argyle (1998 & 1999) and the unstoppable Bruce Herbert (2000 – 2003) – but also the announcement of the end of Group A cars being eligible from 2006, and thereby following the worldwide trend to Standard Production Cars (Group N) only shooting for the Gold Star.

In fact 2004 actually turned out to be the final Hurrah for Group A cars, and Mitsubishi Evo’s in particular, as Andrew Hawkeswood and Neil Allport both won twice with Todd Bawden winning in Hawkes Bay. However, ironically, Chris West’s fortuitous win at Round One at Otago proved decisive as he did enough at the other rounds for his Group N Winger Subaru to earn the Gold Star.

One of Andrew’s wins was at a snowy and wet Southland as he and Co-Driver Jeff Hill in their Evo 6.5 held off Richard Mason/Hamish Fenemor by 21 seconds in just over 2 Hours Total Elapsed Time, while Mason and West were only separated by a 10 second Lateness Penalty Westy and Garry Cowan got due to a puncture touring out to the first stage. Austen Jones/Bede O’Connor ran as high as Second early on until their Group A Subaru Impreza got stuck off the road in Stage 4.


20 years on and two of the leading Cat 1 cars will be driven by the sons of Andrew and Austen, with Jack in the Force Motorsport Toyota and Zeal in uncle Kingsley’s Skoda – and with Aunty Waverley calling the notes.

And then there’s Stokes Motorsport where all three siblings are competing this weekend – Amy rejoins Robbie in the Fiesta AP4 and younger brother Jack hopes to continue his great progress in his debut NZRC season in the Cat 2 Fiesta R2. Interestingly neither son were born when Dad Brian won his third Southland Rally 30 years ago in 1994, and Amy had just had her first birthday.

There’s ‘only’ two Hudson’s running at this round. Dad Rocky will be hoping to get his season with Andy Martin back on track after three retirements and better luck in Southland too after DNFing in 2004 with John Silcock in an Evo 6.5. Son Jared, who was only 2 months old then, is favourite to record his 3rd NZRC Round Win – the first two both being at South Canterbury (in 2022 and last month) – with defending champ Hayden Paddon, who is fully expected to increase his Round Win Record to 38, and his Hyundai i20 AP4’s to 17. Hayden has run at Southland before as well. 2003 was his third ever rally – he was seeded last in his Toyota Levin – and in 2005 he steered his Evo 8 to a podium result – Obviously a sign of greater things to come.


There were 32 NZRC entries in 2004 and 29 this year. Of those 29, 2 of the Class of 2004 will go over the Start Ramp this weekend – and one of them isn’t Greeny as he only ran the Ford Escort WRC in the final three rounds that year. Junior Entry Emma Gilmour was there in an Evo 6 but retired and Dave Strong is the other. He won the Kiwi 2 Class driving his Honda Jazz – just not quite the same spec as the one he will be using this year.

Other 2004 Allcomers driving here again in 2024 are Car 16 John Silcock, 38 Roger McKay, 49 Dave Jenkins and 51 Greg Milne and there’s even a full Crew making a return, having won their Class in 2004 – Car 26 Jeremy McIlwrick and Bradley Dawson, this time in an Evo 4.


At the time of hosting its last NZRC round in 2004 Southland was the longest running event in the series, having started in 1981 when Jim Donald and Kevin Lancaster won in their Masport Escort – the same livery as Paul Fraser is running this year.

Since then there have been 11 other winning drivers in the 23 editions with Smoking Joe McAndrew being the most successful with 4 (1992, 1996, 1997 and 1998). Next with 3 are Brian Stokes (1987, 1988 and 1994) and Neil Allport (1989, 1990 and 1993).

Other multiple winners are Southland Legend Barry Robinson (1983 and 1985), Possum Bourne (the 1985 Premier round and 1991 on his way to winning his only NZRC title), Bruce Herbert is the only one to win in 2 different makes – Mitsubishi in 1999 and Subaru in 2002 and Todd Bawden – who drove the same Black Evo 6 he still owns and used to win Cat 1A GroupNZ when he returned to the championship in 2021 – in 2001 and 2003.

Bob Haldane is the winningest Co-Driver with 5 – twice beside Neil Allport in 1989 and 1990 and a threepeat with Joe McAndrew in 1992, 1996 and 1997.

Interestingly the only other Note Caller to win more than once is Rob Ryan, both times with Bruce Herbert in 1999 and 2002.

So maybe changing Co-Drivers (as we have thought we have been seeing a lot this year) isn’t such a new thing after all..


Apart from Editions 2 and 3 in 1983 and 1984, when it was the opening round in early April, Southland has always been a Winter Event, run right at the end of May or early June, except for 1993 when it ran on June 19th.

So as it will start on the shortest day this year, this will be the latest date its has ever been held, and from the look of the current forecasts the conditions – both overhead and on the roads – should be good.

A couple of things we don’t see any more stood out to me when researching for this column – Full Size Door Banners and Whole Second Stage Timing were both in their final year.


As mentioned in the Otago Key Stats column, by missing Otago Hayden Paddon finds himself in very unfamiliar territory on the NZRC Gold Star Points Table where he is currently in 7th Place. In fact even when/if he takes maximum points (30) at Southland he still wont be back in his customary position of leading the championship as Robbie Stokes already has 61 points.

However HP is still undoubtedly the favourite to take out an 8th NZRC title after Whangarei in November as, if he performs as expected, his rivals after just two rounds are virtually already down to just two – Robbie Stokes and Ben Hunt..

Unfortunately Jack Hawkeswood’s whoopsie in the forest at South Canterbury has severely dented his chances, as finishing 2nd to Hayden at every remaining opportunity – all four Rounds, all four Power Stages and Legs One & Two at Whangarei – would still see him come up 8 points short of HP’s total.

Furthermore, with the close competition already shown by Jack, Robbie and Ben at Otago and South Canterbury, Robbie and Ben’s mathematical options mean they both have a big ask ahead of them as either of them need to finish 2nd at almost every opportunity to head off the flying Hyundai.

A Run of 3rds would see Ben left 9 points behind and Robbie miss out by 5.

Without doubt yet another fascinating contest will unfold across all Categories and Classes as well as the Gold Star, so perhaps an appropriate description for what we have to look forward to is “THE HEAT IS ON IN THE DEEP SOUTH” this weekend.


About The Author


The New Zealand Rally Championship is this country’s premier nationwide rally championship. It attracts New Zealand’s best drivers to compete in numerous categories for the prestigious MotorSport New Zealand-sanctioned rally championship titles. In 2024, there are six NZRC rounds, each with a unique character reflecting the diverse regions – from Northland to Invercargill