Plenty of contenders to battle it out in Otago

A wide-open field will contest the opening round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship this weekend with any number of contenders making a case to win.

Seven-time national champion Hayden Paddon’s absence – he will miss the opening round due to a clash with his European Rally Championship commitments – opens the door for the chasing pack to make a serious claim for the 2024 title.

Two-time national champion Ben Hunt will arguably start as favourite in his Skoda New Zealand Fabia Rally 2 car but will get some serious competition from the likes of Dunedin local Emma Gilmour (Vantage Citroen C3), Robbie Stokes (Stokes Motorsport Ford Fiesta AP4), Jack Hawkeswood (Force Motorsport Toyota GR Yaris AP4) and Zeal Jones (Smith and Sons Skoda Fabia R5).

Australian Stewart Reid steps up to the top class in his Mitsubishi Mirage AP4 while New Caledonia’s Eugene Creugnet will be more competitive after a season under his belt in the Mitsubishi Mirage AP4.

Andy Martin will contest the event in his Volkswagen Polo R5.

The NZRC 2WD class will be headlined by defending champion Dylan Thomson (Ford Fiesta), who will be pushed hard by Bryn Jones (Ford Fiesta).

Tim Mackersey (Ford Fiesta) should be competitive on roads he is more familiar with while Jack Stokes could be one to watch in his Ford Fiesta.

Mossburn’s James Worker (Ford Fiesta) is a newcomer in the field and is a bit of an unknown quantity.

Brent Taylor (Toyota RC86) and Dave Strong (Honda Jazz) will go head-to-head in the Open 2WD class while Willie Hawes (Toyota Corolla) will keep the veteran pair honest.

Paul Fraser (Ford Escort) and Mike Cameron (Mitsubishi Lancer) are the only entrants in the Historic 2WD class.

The Rally Challenge 4WD class is stacked with talent – Carter Strang (Mitsubishi Lancer), Mark McMillan (Subaru Impreza), Caleb MacDonald (Mitsubishi Lancer), Brian Green (Mitsubishi Lancer), Julian Lenglet (Subaru Impreza), Dave Ollis (Subaru Impreza), Gavin Feast (Subaru Impreza), Andrew Graves (Mitsubishi Lancer), Brandon Semenuk (Subaru Impreza), James Macdonald (Subaru Impreza), Jay Pittams (Subaru WRX), Paul Cross (Subaru Impreza) and Amy Keighley (Subaru Impreza) could all challenge for a podium.

Defending champion Jared Parker (Toyota Corolla) will battle Toyota pilot Pat Norris (Toyota Yaris) in the Rally Challenge 2WD class.

The Otago Rally began on Friday night with a ceremonial opening in the Octagon in central Dunedin before two days of competition on iconic gravel roads south and inland from the city.


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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