From the Service Park – Rally Otago

From the Service Park - NZ Rally Championship

What a weekend we had to open the season in Otago. Fittingly, the NZRC Live team were out and about – until the wee small hours – to get all the goss for this edition of From the Service Park.

Emotional win for Hawkeswood
There wouldn’t be many people involved in the sport that weren’t genuinely pleased to see Jack Hawkeswood secure his maiden NZRC rally win on Sunday and following the steps of father Andrew.
Hawkeswood is a popular competitor at the best of times but it was heart-warming to see the emotion the youngster displayed after getting to the end of the final stage and on the podium after the event.
Jack had tears, Andrew had tears and I reckon there were a few tears in the eyes of Blair Bartels at the end as well.

Andrew celebrates in his unique style
While the older Hawkeswood was on hand to watch his son win his maiden rally, Andrew had to catch a flight back and left for the airport straight from the final stage.
He missed the champagne spraying on the podium so like only he could, Andrew grabbed a bottle of champagne in the Koru Lounge at the airport and sprayed his wife to celebrate.
Jack confirmed later in the evening that his father had been asked to leave the Koru Lounge as a result!

It could have all been over before it started
Jack Hawkeswood’s break-through rally win nearly came unstuck early on Saturday when he narrowly avoided going off the road.
I’m reliably told Hawkeswood was paying too much attention to a stricken Tim Smith on a straight piece of road that he stopped watching the road and nearly disappeared in a major accident.
Thankfully a reminder from co-driver Jason Farmer composed the youngster and he went on to earn a memorable victory.

The biggest Hawkeswood story of all
Perhaps, I’m guilty of burying the lead here but maybe the bigger story to come out of Otago is that Jack has officially hung up his infamous Tinder account.
The younger Hawkeswood confirmed to this column that he is “off the market” with a new love interest taking centre stage and break the hearts of young, female rally fans up and down the country.

Stoked for Stokes
While Hawkeswood will rightfully get most of the headlines from the weekend, how about the performance of Robbie Stokes?
After a couple of seasons marred by the odd mistake and car failure, Stokes produced a stunning drive, full of maturity, to secure a brilliant second place finish.
He was right in the battle until the final stage and will take a heap out of the weekend.
It will be a massive boost to the Stokes Motorsport team after brother Jack finished second in a brilliant NZRC 2WD debut as well.

One little mishap for Stokes
My spies did pick up one little indiscretion for the Stokes crew over the weekend – they managed to run the service van out of fuel early in the weekend.
Could one say – adding fuel to the frying pan (or something like that)?

MRFs get a big tick
One of the bigger talking points over the off-season and heading into the opening round was the MRF control tyre, being used for the first time.
Not only have they leveled the playing field and brought financial certainty to competitors but their performance yielded three stage records while Ben Hunt’s performance at Kuri Bush left most fans shaking their head in disbelief.
And for good measure, Mike and Helen Cameron managed to do 600km on one set!

Don’t let Bryn Jones make any more predictions
Bryn Jones is as passionate a rally driver as there is but he produced one heck of a foot-in-mouth clanger on Saturday.
This column has got the in-car audio of him telling co-driver Sean Lockyear how stable his Ford Fiesta Rally 4 car is literally as it swaps ends on him and he hits a bank that effectively ended his hopes.
Bryn is a massive talent and he will be as disappointed as anyone but fair credit to him – he offered us the footage and notified us of what had happened.

David Reynolds tribute?
What did I see on the back right rear of Bryn’s car as he was leaving the start of the rally?
It looked suspiciously like the statement that landed Supercars driver David Reynolds in hot water at Bathurst a few years ago.
We might need a little more clarity because it certainly appears to be false advertising from the face of it.

Fan brought to Otago despite not being able to come
Aiden “The Princess” was unable to join his mates on the trip to come watch Rally Otago but that didn’t stop his mates from making sure he was there in spirit.
The photo below shows “Aiden” coming along for the ride nonetheless.

Return of some familiar names on the horizon?
We know NZRC Live member Darren Galbraith is likely to contest his home event next month and will make a cameo in the championship to boot but he might not be the only addition.
I’m hearing a former NZRC rally winner is odds-on for a return to the championship at South Canterbury.

Rocky Balboa or Rocky Hudson?
Rocky Hudson is usually a mild-mannered, rally enthusiast with a smile on his face at events but that changed on Sunday night.
The co-driver extraordinaire was not allowed to enter the prizegiving due to a ticket issue despite his entire family already being in there.
The staff quickly addressed the misunderstanding but it didn’t improve Hudson’s mood once inside.


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