Rally stars descend on Hawke’s Bay for first stop in a decade
After an absence of a decade the beautiful Hawke’s Bay once again plays host to the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship this weekend for round four of five, the Kennedy Park Resort Hawke’s Bay Rally.
Using a combination of stages that featured in previous national championship rounds as well as some brand-new stages, the six-stage, one-day rally will provide superb action on iconic gravel roads north of Napier.
Ex-WRC star Hayden Paddon needs only to finish the rally to win a record-equaling fifth national title although the battle behind him looks to be fierce.
Ben Hunt (Hydraulink Subaru), Raana Horan (Generator Rental Services Skoda) and Robbie Stokes (Stokes Motorsport Ford) loom as the most likely to challenge at the front.
There will be plenty of interest in the return of Jack Hawkeswood to the championship after his big crash at Whangarei in May – the Force Motorsport crew have raced the clock to get his Mazda 2 ready for this event.
There will also be intrigue around the 4WD debut of talented youngster Ari Pettigrew, who will run the Team Ralliart Mitsubishi Mirage regularly driven by Brian Green.
Matt Summerfield (Andrew Simms Mitusbishi), Phil Campbell (Roofing Store Ford), Regan Ross (Virgin White Ford), Kingsley Jones (Auckland Denture Clinic Skoda) and Mike Young (Cusco Subaru) should all be chasing podium finishes.
Local star Grant Blackberry returns to the championship for his first event since Otago and will be worth watching thanks to his local knowledge and underrated talents.
The 2WD battle should be fierce with Brent Taylor and Bruce Herbert back for this round while the historic contingent of Jeff Judd, John Silcock, Shane Murland and Anthony Jones will continue their scrap.
Dylan Thomson can claim the FIA Group N 2WD title by finishing this weekend.
The Rally Challenge remains wide open with Andy Martin taking a points-advantage into the weekend but with Quentin Palmer, David Sievers and Wayne Muckle breathing down his neck.
We welcome back Matt Adams – but he returns in the Mitsubishi VR4, which means Todd Bawden can wrap up the category 1A title just by finishing.
The event gets underway on Marine Parade, Napier on Friday night with a ceremonial start before the first competitive stage starts at 7.41am on Saturday.