Four-way battle to resume at Southern Lights Rally

The four-way battle at the front of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship is set to reignite in the cold of the deep south at the Southern Lights Rally in a fortnight.

Championship leader Robbie Stokes, two-time national champ Ben Hunt, Otago Rally winner Jack Hawkeswood and WRC star Hayden Paddon are all battling it out to win the 2024 title and will square off at the front of the field when the championship returns to Southland for the first time in two decades.

Paddon (Hyundai New Zealand i20 AP4) is the favourite when competitors tackle night stages, potential snow and ice and some iconic roads of the Deep South.

But he has ground to make up in the championship after missing the opening event.

Stokes (Stokes Motorsport Ford Fiesta AP4) and Hunt (Skoda New Zealand Fabia Rally 2) are in the strongest position of the four, scoring heavily at both events so far.

Hawkeswood (Force Motorsport Toyota GR Yaris AP4) was the man to beat in Paddon’s absence at Otago, but a small error proved costly in Timaru, and he has ground to make up.

In addition to the four championship contenders, the Southern Lights Rally has drawn the likes of Emma Gilmour (Vantage NZ Citroen C3), Zeal Jones (Smith & Sons Skoda Fabia R5), Stewart Reid (SR Automotive Mitsubishi Mirage AP4) and Andy Martin (Carbonworks Forestry Volkswagen Polo R5).

The likes of Bryn Jones (Ford Fiesta Rally 4), Jack Stokes (Ford Fiesta R2) and Tim Mackersy (Ford Fiesta Rally 4) will try to put some pressure on defending NZRC 2WD champion Dylan Thomson (Ford Fiesta Rally 4).

Dave Strong (Honda Jazz) and Willy Hawes (Toyota GT86) will continue their head-to-head battle in the Open 2WD class but are joined by Murray Percival (Ford Escort) while the Historic battle between Paul Fraser (Ford Escort) and Mike Cameron (Mitsubishi Lancer) is also set to resume.

Southland locals Mark McMillan (Subaru WRX), Carter Strang (Mitsubishi EVO 10), Caleb Macdonald (Mitsubishi EVO 6) and James Worker (Mitsubishi EVO 6) headline a very deep Rally Challenge 4WD class.

Also in the mix will be James Macdonald (Subaru Impreza), Jay Pittams (Subaru Impreza), Gavin Feast (Subaru WRX), Paul Cross (Subaru Impreza) and Brian Green (Mitsubishi EVO 9).

The Rally Challenge 2WD battle will feature reigning class champion Jared Parker (Toyota Corolla) and Pat Norris (Toyota Yaris).


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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