Stokes unable to start with fuel line issue

The uber-talented Robbie Stokes was the major casualty in a drama-filled opening to the Mark Cromie Motor Group International Rally of Whangarei on Friday night.

Stokes, one of the pre-event favourites, suffered a fuel line problem in his Team Hutchinson Ford Fiesta AP4 and was unable to start either of the two runs through the popular Pohe Island super special stage in downtown Whangarei.

Reigning Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally champion Hayden Paddon was his dominant self through the two passes – winning both stages and taking a 7.5 second advantage over Ben Hunt into Saturday’s first full day of action.

Hunt was fourth quickest through the first pass but improved to be second fastest the second time around in his Skoda New Zealand Fabia R5.

Matt Summerfield was impressive in his Mitsubishi Mirage AP4 to hold third place – a further 1.2 seconds behind Hunt while Raana Horan was fourth just 0.1 second back in his Generator Rental Services Skoda Fabia R5.

Jack Hawkeswood was third quickest in the opening stage and held fifth place overall in his Allied Petroleum Toyota Yaris – even more remarkable given he spent some time in hospital this week with a gastro bug.

Ari Pettigrew (Holden Barina AP4), Phil Campbell (Ford Fiesta AP4), Josh Marston (Holden Barina AP4), Matt Jensen (Mazda 2 AP4) and Emma Gilmour (Suzuki Swift AP4) completed the top 10.

Hadyn Mackenzie (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX) edged Clint Cunningham (Ford Fiesta Proto) by 1.1 seconds in the Rally Challenge battle.

Dylan Thomson (Ford Fiesta) led Jackson Clendon (Ford Fiesta) by nearly five seconds in the overall 2WD standings and in the NZRC 2WD class while John Silcock (Mazda RX7) pipped Anthony Jones (Ford Escort) by 1.3s in the Historic 2WD battle.

In addition to Stokes, Daniel Haines, Jeff Torkington and Jay Sharp all were forced to retire from event with various issues.

Saturday’s action sees competitors tackle eight stages north of Whangarei.


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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