Hunt on the cusp at Coromandel
Subaru driver Ben Hunt needs only to finish ninth in this weekend’s Dayle ITM Goldrush Rally of Coromandel to wrap up a second career title.
The Auckland-based Hunt holds a 46-point lead over Josh Marston and has two bites at the cherry to claim the 2019 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship with the season-ending Waitomo Rally in October up his sleeve.
Hunt has dominated this year’s championship – winning all four events so far. A win at Coromandel would see Hunt win five rallies in a season – a feat only achieved three times previously.
He has often spoken of his love for tighter, twisty roads like he will find at Coromandel this weekend.
Marston is the only driver that has a mathematical chance of overhauling Hunt and making the Holden driver’s job even more difficult is the fact that Dylan Turner (Audi), Emma Gilmour (Suzuki) and Stephen Barker (Mitsubishi) are all back in action and chomping at the bit to add a rally win to show for their effort this year.
Raana Horan (Skoda) appears to be back to top form while Phil Campbell (Ford) has demonstrated good pace at times – both are capable of challenging for a win.
Could this be the round that one of the series young guns – Dylan Thomson (Subaru) or Jack Hawkeswood (Mazda) – gets a break-through win?
Marcus van Klink and co-driver Dave Neill can wrap up the overall 2WD Championship on the highly-cambered Coromandel roads although their late withdrawal opens up the chance of second-placed Anthony Jones and Tanya Gwynne catching them ahead of the final round.
Van Klink holds a 30-point advantage so Jones will be out to bank maximum points and erase the gap.
Matt Adams and Lisa Hudson take a 25-point lead in the Gull Rally Challenge into the penultimate round of the championship but a hungry pack is chasing at their tails, especially when you factor in the dropping of the worst two rounds.
Their advantage shrinks to seven points when you adjust the standings. Bryn Smith, Ben Thomasen, Garet Thomas and Eugene Creugnet all lie within 19 points of Adams once you drop rounds.
The fascinating battle between Mike Sheehan and Robbie Stokes continues in the FIA Group N 2WD class. The pair have gone back and forth all season and come into the round with the joint lead in what is now a head-to-head battle for the title.
Van Klink holds a 25-point lead over Jones in the Open 2WD Championship but Jones could be leading by that by the end of the weekend.
Adams holds a 28-point lead over Thomas and Smith in the Gull Rally Challenge 4WD battle but that comes down to 10 points with adjusted totals.
Andy Gillies and Nathan Pilcher hold an adjusted six-point buffer over Daph O’Rourke and Brianna Little in the Gull Rally Challenge 2WD championship. Wayne Rowberry, Andy Martin and Daniel Alexander are still very much in the battle as well.
Wayne Muckle and Tania Cresswell will attempt to overhaul the 13-point deficit to Stadium Finance Group A Challenge leaders Phil Collins and Tracey Spark.
Former Rally New Zealand winner and national champion Paul Adams will prove a welcome addition competing in this class.
The event begins with a ceremonial opening in downtown Whitianga on Friday night before a full day of rallying across the peninsula on Saturday.
The 2019 New Zealand Rally Championship is proudly supported by Brian Green Property Group, Gull New Zealand, Dunlop New Zealand, HELLA New Zealand, Stadium Finance, Omega Rental Cars and Suzuki New Zealand.