Youth to challenge experience in National rally title
Experience versus emerging talent will be the feature of the 2014 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship driven by VINZ. A number of new faces stepping into new cars in the outright four wheel drive category provides an exciting prospect when the new season commences next month at Rally Whangarei.
With 2013 National Champion Hayden Paddon securing a World Rally Championship program with Hyundai, a host of talented young Kiwi drivers are ready to follow Hayden’s wheel tracks and take up the challenge to the regular front-runners in the NZRC.
Starting the season as favorites for the title will be the experienced Masterton pairing of Richard and Sara Mason. Driving the familiar bright yellow BNT Subaru, Mason is targeting a record fifth National rally title. Joining Mason in the experienced ranks are 2004 National Champion Chris West from Timaru in the Team Ralliart NZ Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour driving the spectacular Suzuki Swift Maxi, and Auckland’s Andrew Hawkeswood in a Mazda 2 Maxi, another of the new generation rally machines featuring a 2 litre turbocharged engine and 4WD.
Veteran campaigners Brian Green, who started the year with a win in the first round of the Malaysian Rally Championship, and Dave Strong in the rapid Ford Fiesta S2000 are both back to commence battle, whilst returning to the NZRC after a few seasons away are regular top 5 competitors from Auckland, Mitsubishi driver and current Top Half Series Champion Dylan Turner, and Patrick Malley who is expecting to debut an all new car at Whangarei.
Leading the charge of the new generation of drivers is Ben Hunt who was the sensation of 2013 with a round win and podium places in his first season in the 4WD category. The 24 year old from Nelson has just returned from a Global Rallycross Series test session in America and has demonstrated his ability to compete at the front of the NZRC field.
Also taking the challenge to Mason, West and co, will be regular top 5 contenders from 2013, Sloan Cox from Rotorua (Evo 10), and 22 year old Rangiora Subaru driver Matt Summerfield, a former Open Class 4WD & 2WD champion. Both rookie championship contestants from 2013 return, with Canterbury Subaru driver Richard Baddock starting 2014 with victory at the recent Westland Rally, whilst Te Aroha’s Graeme Featherstone will contest the outright 4WD category in his potent Lancer Evo 7.
Graduating from the 2WD Ford Fiesta class to outright 4WD contention are Tauranga based David Holder in an ex Paddon Evo 8, and Phil Campbell in an Evo 9 previously campaigned in the Asia Pacific Championship. 19 year old Lance Williams from Te Aroha will enter his rookie NZRC season driving a Possum Bourne Motorsport prepared Subaru Impreza R4. With only one season under his belt, Williams sent notice to fellow competitors by achieving an outright fastest stage time ahead of Mason and West at Rally Wairarapa the final round of 2013.
Completing the 4WD field for the opening round at Whangarei are Northland’s Clinton Cunningham contesting his second season in the NZRC, Auckland’s David Thexton driving a Subaru Impreza, Canterbury’s Tony Gosling moves from his Classic BDA Escort to a Subaru Impreza, and Aucklander Daniel Walker will again campaign a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo.
In addition to the four wheel drive ranks, a competitive entry of modern and classic two wheel drive cars will also contest the 2014 NZRC. Leading entries include Waikato’s Brent Taylor in a rear wheel drive Toyota 86, impressive rookie performer at regional level Max Bayley in a R2 spec Ford Fiesta, and defending 2WD class champion Hamish Anderson from Christchurch. Heading the entry for the BNT Historic Class is Canterbury’s Marcus Van Klink in his spectacular Group B Mazda RX7.
Seeded entry list for Round 1: http://www.rallywhangarei.co.nz/media/2014/03/row-2014-entry-list-nationals.pdf