Paddon wins in Southland as title battle down to a point

Just one point separates the two leading contenders in the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship after the first visit to Southland in two decades.

WRC rally winner Hayden Paddon claimed a victory of just over three minutes from Ben Hunt in his Hyundai New Zealand i20 AP4, winning each of the 10 special stages across Friday night and Saturday on the fast and flowing Southland gravel stages.

Paddon closes the gap to championship leader Robbie Stokes to 24 points as he fights to overcome missing the opening round back in April.

Hunt (Skoda New Zealand Fabia Rally 2) managed to edge Stokes (Stokes Motorsport Ford Fiesta AP4) by 7.9 seconds in a terrific event-long battle, which leaves the two separated by just one championship point as the series takes a break until September.

Otago Rally winner Jack Hawkeswood (Force Motorsport Toyota GR Yaris) completed a solid drive for fourth place and remains in the title fight – 21 points adrift of Stokes.

Emma Gilmour picked up fifth place in her Vantage NZ Citroen C3 and sits 25 points off the title lead, while Zeal Jones (Smith & Sons Skoda Fabia R5) was fifth and is a further two points back from Gilmour.

Dylan Thomson (Ford Fiesta) overcame some early troubles to win the NZRC 2WD class for the third-straight event.

He held off Jack Stokes (Ford Fiesta) and Bryn Jones (Ford Fiesta), who completed the class podium.

Dave Strong (Honda Jazz) took out the Open 2WD class ahead of Willy Hawes (Toyota 86) and Murray Percival (Ford Escort).

Hawes remains in charge of the class championship.

Paul Fraser’s domination of the Historic 2WD class continued as he banked maximum points yet again, while Mike Cameron (Mitsubishi Lancer) showcased his consistency to take second place and stay in the title fight.

Southland local Andrew Graves held off the challengers in the Rally Challenge 4WD battle to win in his Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 3.

He beat home Caleb Macdonald (Mitsubishi EVO 6) and Carter Strang (Mitsubishi EVO 10).

Defending class champion Jared Parker (Toyota Corolla) overcame a number of issues to win the Rally Challenge 2WD class and pick up the MRF Drive of the Rally for his efforts.

Pat Norris (Toyota Yaris) was second in the class.

The championship returns after the winter break in mid-September with the Daybreaker Rally based out of the Manawatu.


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