Championship to be decided at epic finale
Friday’s long first leg of Repco Rally New Zealand looms as the key day and the penultimate round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship.
The two final rounds of the 2022 championship take place this weekend as part of the WRC Repco Rally New Zealand based out of Auckland.
For the first time since 2012, the national championship is part of a WRC event, and it will determine the champion in all categories.
Former WRC rally winner Hayden Paddon has one hand on what would be his sixth national championship, taking a 24-point lead over Ben Hunt into the final two rounds.
With a maximum of 30 points on offer per round, Paddon can secure the title by scoring 12 points on Friday if Hunt scores six or less. By picking up 12 points on either Friday or Saturday Paddon would eliminate third-placed Ari Pettigrew, fourth-placed Raana Horan and fifth-placed Matt Summerfield from title calculations.
In all reality though it is a straight shoot-out between Paddon and Hunt. If Paddon secures six points more than Hunt on Friday, he will take an unassuming lead over the Skoda NZ driver and have a sixth crown to his name.
If Paddon were to come unstuck on Friday – and Friday will be a long challenging day for the very best in the world with two passes over the notorious Whaanga Coast, Te Akau North and Te Akau South stages without a service – it opens the door for Hunt to roar back into contention.
A DNF by Paddon and a win for Hunt could see the latter jump to the top of the standings heading into the final day of the championship on Saturday. It would also bring the likes of Pettigrew, Horan and Summerfield into the equation.
The overall 2WD battle is even more intense with Dylan Thomson holding a slender three-point leader over John Silcock. Jordan Grant and Bryn Jones are 19 points and 24 points adrift respectively and could well feature in the battle depending on Friday’s results.
In fact, as many as 12 different drivers remain a mathematical chance of winning the 2WD title.
Silcock has effectively won the Historic 2WD championship just by starting the event. Holding the championship lead and with his two nearest rivals not entering next week, he will secure the title.
Thomson has a nine-point advantage over Jones in the NZRC 2WD championship but as many as six drivers (Charlie Evans, Jordan Grant, Lukas Ramsay and JP van Der Meys as well) remain in the battle.
Daniel Haines leads the Open 2WD championship by seven points over Dave Strong heading to Repco Rally New Zealand. The pair have battled hard all season and look the most likely to fight out for the crown, but Peter Farrell, Brent Taylor and Chris Alexander are all still well and truly in the battle as well, especially if Haines or Strong slip up on Friday.
The Rally Challenge 4WD battle looks set to go to Jeff Ward if he safely navigates his way to the end of Friday thought Bryn Smith, Dave Ollis, Steve Cox, Amy Keighley and Chris Lockyear are also in with a chance of grabbing the spoils.
Jonty Brensell has been the class of the Rally Challenge 2WD class this season, but he will still need to finish to win the title. The likes of Jono Shapley, Sam Byrne, David Taylor and Zeal Jones are still within striking distance.