Teams’ Championship mid-season update
Eight different combinations entered the Teams’ Cup in the 2023 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship and with just two rounds remaining there is something of a surprise leader.
This championship sees two crews work together to combine their respective class scores from each of the five rounds of the 2023 championship.
With two of the sport’s best competitors – Hayden Paddon and Ari Pettigrew – teaming up as Paddon Rallysport, many punters could have been forgiven for thinking the etching of their name on the Cup was a foregone conclusion this year.
But the script clearly never made it across the Tasman.
The Celtic Aussies – a combination of Glenn Alcorn and Stewart Reid – top the championship standings on 187 points and hold a 39-point buffer heading into round four at the Daybreaker Rally.
It was Paddon Rallysport that did what everyone expected as the season kicked off at Otago. Paddon and Pettigrew went one-two on the opening day down south and the latter did enough to hold on for a brilliant second placed finish on the Sunday to make the perfect start for the team.
Alcorn and Reid did their part, however. Alcorn won his Open 2WD class in the Ford Escort while Reid picked up a good haul of points in his Mazda RX7 despite a few headaches.
When they left Dunedin, they trailed Paddon Rallysport by just three points.
The Mainland Chargers team, consisting of Robbie Stokes and John Silcock, did well to be third at Otago with 61 points.
EmSport NZ’s combination of Todd Bawden and Jackson Clendon walked away with 44 points at the opener while Black Sacks Racing (Raana Horan and Clint Cunningham) scored 39 points.
Ben Hunt flew the flag for Giltrap Group, scoring 32 points, and knowing he’d have help at round two when Shane van Gisbergen joined the championship.
Up north we tracked in May, and it was more of the same from Paddon Rallysport to begin with before Pettigrew was forced out. That meant the team was down to one point-scorer and Paddon, despite winning the rally, collected 44 points – half as much as the Celtic Aussies.
Alcorn and Reid both won their classes and scored a massive 88 points to take hold of the Teams’ Cup championship lead.
The other teams all failed to score more than a combined 40 points in Whangarei – EmSport NZ the next best on 39 while the Mainland Chargers got 36, thanks largely to Silcock nursing home his ailing Mazda RX7 on the Sunday.
Giltrap Group’s charge was culled before the opening stage when Van Gisbergen was struck down with a mechanical issue, leaving Hunt to pick up 35 points for the cause.
Black Sacks Racing were on for a lot more than 30 points until Cunningham crashed out from a top five showing on the Sunday.
Team Tauranga (Andy Martin and Jordan Grant) scored 27 points while Team Toyota (Jack Hawkeswood and Mike Young) scraped together 18 points.
To South Canterbury and, with Paddon not contesting due to European commitments, Pettigrew was left to fend for himself.
He showed great pace despite a first stage off and a broken axle and managed second place to add 25 crucial points to the team tally.
The Mainland Chargers were the top scorers at what is essentially their home round as they took home 30 points while Black Sacks Racing had 29 points thanks Horan’s overall rally win.
The Celtic Aussies were able to pick up 25 points in a difficult event after Alcorn went out midway through the day.
With no SVG and Hunt’s sliding off the road from the rally lead on the penultimate stage, there was nothing to show for Giltrap Group in Timaru.
Team Tauranga scored 23 valuable points thanks to Grant’s run in NZRC 2WD.
So with two rounds to go the Celtic Aussies will be looking to protect a 39-point lead to score a memorable victory over us Kiwis.
Paddon will be back for the last two rounds and will no doubt have the bit between his teeth trying to add another drivers’ title to his collection but don’t play down the importance of the Teams’ Cup to the Paddon Rallysport crew.
The Mainland Chargers are a further 21 points adrift in third while Black Sacks Racing are 89 points out of the reckoning heading to the Manawatu.
With Van Gisbergen set to contest the last two rounds alongside Hunt, keep an eye on Giltrap Group despite them being well over 100 points out of the battle at present.