Manufacturers’ Championship mid-season update
This week we turn the spotlight onto the race for the Manufacturers’ title. Manufacturers play an important part within the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, without them we literally wouldn’t have cars to start with!
After years of a two-horse race with Subaru and Mitsubishi, the introduction of the AP4 formula to complement the FIA homologated R5/Rally 2 cars has seen diversity grow exponentially with 12 manufacturers having fielded cars in championship classes so far in 2023. In fact, at Coromandel 2018, the NZRC boasted 10 different manufacturers across the top 10 cars.
The format in 2023 sees the highest two seeded cars in Categories 1-3 from each manufacturer nominated, with the highest finishing competitor representing the brand’s finishing position and scoring points based on that position, with bonus points applied (5,4,3,2 and 1) for the top five cars from category 2 and 3.
Defending champions Hyundai, represented by Hayden Paddon, made the best start at Otago after Paddon secured the win, but it was a combination of Robbie Stokes and the two-wheel drive Fiesta of Jackson Clendon that led Ford to second place, just two points off the lead after the season opener. Holden (Ari Pettigrew), Skoda (Ben Hunt) and Citroen (Emma Gilmour) rounding out the top five.
Hyundai would again top the charts with maximum points at Whangarei, but knowing they’d be unrepresented at the third round in Timaru, they’d be concerned to see the results of Dylan Thomson representing Ford in the two-wheel drive Fiesta to fourth manufacturer plus the top bonus points. Their 24 points saw them only dropping one point to Hyundai, with Skoda the next highest scorer with Hunt, then Suzuki again banking on two-wheel drive success with Jordan Grant, the bonus points bumping them just ahead of Holden, represented by Josh Marston.
That meant leaving the event, Hyundai held a three point lead over Ford, while Skoda and Holden were tied for third a further five points back ahead of rallying veterans Mitsubishi, 18 points off the pace.
With no Hyundai crossing the start ramp at South Canterbury, there would almost be a guarantee of movement at the top end of the field and plenty of talk around who would be the biggest mover.
In the end, Skoda would take the rally win courtesy of Raana Horan, although Ford with the combination of Stephen Barker and the two-wheel drive bonus points going to Thomson meant both Manufacturers would claim a total of 25 points. Behind them, last minute issues for Marston meant Pettigrew lead Holden to next best with 22, equal with Honda, with Suzuki edging Toyota for fifth.
Heading to the final two rounds, the championship is wide open. Ford currently lead on 72 points, but have Skoda hot on their heels with 67 and Holden on 64. Looking to make up ground will be Hyundai on 50 while a consistent Mitsubishi, having scored 16 at each round to date, complete the top five on 48.