Holder takes advantage to Whangarei
Defending Champion David Holder will start the International Rally of Whangarei, round 2 of the 2017 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, fuelled by Gull and driven by Dunlop, with an 8 point margin over his nearest rival Andrew Hawkeswood.
Holder who was victorious at the opening round of the championship in Dunedin three weeks ago, will have his second drive of the Hyundai New Zealand i20 at Whangarei, an event that marked the scene of his first NZRC round win 12 months ago and set him on course for the 2016 title. Hawkeswood is targeting a win at Whangarei after a costly time penalty effectively snatched victory from the Mazda driver at Otago. Fastest on five of the 14 stages at Otago, Hawkeswood demonstrated he is a clear championship contender in 2017.
Third in the championship standings is ever consistent Te Aroha farmer Graham Featherstone and co-driver Dave Davenport. Driving an older Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7, Featherstone is the dark horse of the championship field with his ever consistent pace and finishing record. Only one point further back was the surprise performer of the opening round Rhys Gardner. Driving the first generation ex-Hawkeswood Mazda 2, the Southland driver surprised even himself by battling all rally in the top three, but will head to Whangarei for the first time eager to finish and bag more points. Rounding out the top five in the championship standings is Rotorua Mitsubishi driver Sloan Cox, one of the pacesetters at Whangarei 12 months ago.
The Whangarei based event also sees a number of exciting championship debuts. Auckland’s Dylan Turner will unveil his much anticipated Audi S1 Quattro built to the Ap4 regulations, Greg Murphy will make his 4WD championship debut in the Holden Barina AP4, while four time NZ Classic Rally Champion Marcus Van Klink will unleash his radical Mazda RX8 in the Open 2WD category.
A bumper field of 44 championship entries, means the class battles will also be closely contested. Waiuku’s Dylan Thompson heads the production 2WD field in his Ford Fiesta, spectacular Welshman Anthony Jones in his modified Escort leads Open 2WD while a classic Mazda vs Ford battle will take place in the Historics between John Silcock and tony Gosling. The Gull Rally Challenge contested over leg one of the event is wide open with many of the North Island crews starting their campaign at this event.
Along with being the second round of the 2017 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, The International Rally of Whangarei is the opening round of the 2017 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship featuring international drivers from Norway, India, Japan, Finland and Sweden competing.
The event commences on the evening of Friday 28th April with a rally show at Te Matau A Pohe in central Whangarei where fans can meet all the cars and stars up close at an autograph session before they attack two passes of the night time Hella Super Special Stage at Pohe Island. Leg one continues on Saturday heading as far north as Paihia for eight special stages on the fast flowing cambered roads the rally is famous for, while Sundays final leg heads south of Whangarei for a further six stages. The event is based from the Pacific Ford Service Park adjacent to the Toll Stadium on Port Road where each day the teams can be seen tuning and preparing cars for the 275 kilometres of competitive stages that make-up the event.
The New Zealand Rally Championship is bought to you by the team at Rally New Zealand with the support of title sponsor Brian Green Property Group as well as official fuel supplier Gull NZ and official tyre supplier Dunlop.
2017 Brian Green Property Group NZ Rally Championship standings after round 1 of 6:
- David Holder – Hyundai i20 – Tauranga – 41 points
- Andrew Hawkeswood – Mazda 2 – Auckland – 33
- Graham Featherstone – Mitsubishi Evo – Te Aroha – 26
- Rhys Gardner – Mazda 2 – Balclutha – 25
- Sloan Cox – Mitsubishi Evo – Rotorua – 19