Relaxed Hunt not fazed by potential for third title

Pukekohe’s Ben Hunt enters the 2024 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship chasing a third title, something that would put him on a par with legends of our sport like Tony Teesdale, Neil Allport and Joe McAndrew. And with Hayden Paddon missing the two-day opening round and the 44 points it offers, many are picking Hunt as the early favourite to take the title this season.

“I thought every year was my year,” He laughs. “I try not to think about all that too much and just take every day as it comes and don’t overthink it because that’s when you stuff it up. Obviously every rally I’ve done my whole life, I’ve always put my best foot forward but you know with motorsport, there’s so many other factors that can affect an overall championship. Like last year Timaru (stuck off road in the final stage) and then the rally after that had the master cylinder random problem and, you know, that could have been our year last year, and then we actually ended up third, which was different because I think I’ve been second like, four or five times.”

Given the opportunities available to top the table this season, Hunt has a remarkably calm attitude towards the season ahead, playing down the hype of results over enjoying his time behind the wheel of his Skoda Fabia Rally2.

“We’ll just go and do our own thing and have fun. It’s a mission, running a business and having a family and everything and probably more than anything now, I just like going there and actually remembering why I actually love driving a rally car and do it for that reason. Obviously I am competitive and you want to win, but some things are out of your control. So we’ll just go do our best and see what happens at the other end. It’s a long, long year, it’s November till the last rally, so there’s no point stressing about it.”

That being said, the 35-year old makes no secret of his desire for a third Gold Star title, motivated just as much by those ones that have got away in seasons past.

“Yeah, it would be awesome to win another one. There’s probably been two or three championships that should have been. I have mucked up a few things over the years where I should have won a championship and it is gutting, but that’s rallying, you know. Neil (Allport) lost a few like that. Everyone’s lost a few like that. Probably the only one that hasn’t is Hayden because that is his job and he does everything 120%, but there’s been heaps of people that have lost championships and I’m just another one that’s done that. So, yeah, that would be pretty awesome to win another and I’m just a little bit gutted that those other times when I’ve had the opportunity of not having made it happen. But then in saying that we have won two championships, which is still pretty cool.”

That prior success means Hunt is the only Gold Star champion lining up amongst the field in Otago this weekend. Not a big stats man, Hunt gives a rather blunt opinion on if this is a motivating factor.

“No, not really, but it probably means that I’m getting a bit older.”

While pretty well every front running team has seen a new driver/co-driver combination pop up for this season, Hunt’s relationship with co-driver Tony Rawstorn is something he sees as a big stabilising factor.

“Me and Tony get on like a house on fire and we’re best mates and have a lot of fun. He gets grumpy at me like my wife does and vice versa. You know, probably the biggest thing for me is I hate change. So if I buy a pair of sunglasses, I buy five pairs so that’s probably a good thing for Tony and my wife is that hopefully that it’ll never change!”

One major change for 2024 that Hunt will have to adapt to his the move to a control tyre supplied by MRF Tyres in the NZRC, but Hunt sees it as a positive move to level the playing field.

“Yeah, obviously, I ran for Pirelli’s for a very long time. Because the Subaru was so long and you had to really lean on tyres because of its wheel base it couldn’t handle it unless it was on a Pirelli. So. that’s why I changed to them all those years ago and, and they were very good, but, hey, I’ve got no problem with a control tyre because it’s the same for everyone. So, you know,  you don’t get any of the, oh, I’m on Dunlop and so you only beat me because I’m on Pirelli and rah, rah, rah. It’s like I’ve always said about the Fiestas, the good thing with that concept is because it is a control class and everyone’s in exactly the same car and it comes down to driver.”

“The tyres themselves feel pretty good to be fair, but we only did about a 25 kilometre shakedown before we sent the car to the South Island, so we won’t entirely understand how they’re working until we get into a 30-odd kilometre stage.”

Finally, who does Hunt see as his biggest threat for the season ahead?

“That’s a bit hard to answer that when I haven’t looked at the entry list! The only reason I know Hayden isn’t there is everyone keeps ringing and telling me! We’ll just put our best foot forward and do the best we can.”

While Hunt is playing it cool in the lead up, expect him to be one to beat this weekend.


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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