Pettigrew chases Paddon on opening day at Otago

Reigning champion Hayden Paddon leads the season opening round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship in Otago but it is his young stablemate Ari Pettigrew that has turned heads Saturday.

Pettigrew lies outright second in the Manukau Auto Centre Holden Barina AP4, just under two minutes behind the WRC rally winner and his Paddon Rallysport boss after a brilliant first day.

Paddon won all nine special stages on Saturday in his Hyundai New Zealand i20N Rally 2 car and looked to be in complete control as he embarks on a quest for a seventh national title in 2023.

Pettigrew finished the day 48.6 seconds ahead of third-placed Ben Hunt in his Skoda New Zealand Fabia Rally 2 car.

Hunt had been locked in a three-way battle with Raana Horan (Generator Rental Services Skoda Fabia Rally 2) and Dunedin local Emma Gilmour (Vantage Citroen C3) but pulled away in the afternoon as the other two had minor problems.

Gilmour held fourth overnight with Jack Hawkeswood (Force Motorsport Toyota Yaris) fifth, Todd Bawden (Online Contractors Ford Fiesta Rally 2) sixth, Robbie Stokes (Team Hutchison Ford Fiesta AP4) seventh and Josh Marston (RDL Holden Barina AP4) eighth while Horan dropped to ninth due to an issue in the second service.

Jackson Clendon (Ford Fiesta Rally 4) led the NZRC 2WD class overnight after a dominant opening day. He opened up a 53.4 second lead over defending series champion Dylan Thomson (Ford Fiesta ST150) and Jordan Grant (Suzuki Swift), who was a further 19.1 seconds back in third.

2022 champion Dan Haines (Ford Escort) held a lead in the Open 2WD class ahead of Australian Glenn Alcorn (Ford Escort)..

John Silcock held first place in the Historic 2WD class having continued with his title-winning form in 2022 comfortably seeing off the challenge of Tim McIver (Ford Escort) and Stewart Reid (Mazda RX7).

Defending champion Jeff Ward won the Rally Challenge 4WD one-day class in his Subaru Impreza but he was out-driven in the opening stage by Jonty Brenssell, who set the sixth fastest time overall in a phenomenal start to the day.

Brenssell’s rally came to a sudden end in the following test however when he crashed his Mitsubishi EVO 9.

Championship sponsor Brian Green turned back the clock to set the exact same power stage time as Ward to bank some points and take second place in his Mitsubishi EVO 9.

Tim Smith (Subaru Impreza) completed the class podium.

The Group A Challenge win went to Smith, who held off Paul Cross and James MacDonald – all three running Subaru Impreza’s.

The action continues on Sunday with seven more stages south of Dunedin, including the iconic Kuri Bush as a rally finale.


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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