The battle to win the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship will be fierce with up to 20 drivers and eight different manufacturers set to fight it out.
With former WRC star and 2018 champion Hayden Paddon not contesting the NZRC in 2019 the championship has been left wide open.
Former champions Ben Hunt (Subaru), Andrew Hawkeswood (Mazda) and David Holder (Holden) loom as the obvious contenders while they should get stiff competition from Josh Marston (Holden), Matt Summerfield (Subaru), Emma Gilmour (Suzuki), Dylan Turner (Audi) and Raana Horan (Skoda).
Hunt was superb last year and put together a campaign that was only over-shadowed by Paddon’s inclusion. He will be fired up to add a second title to his resume.
Holder takes over the wheel of Greg Murphy’s Holden Barina for the opening two rounds at least. He has proven to be quick before and the Holden is getting more consistent all the time. Hawkeswood entered select rounds last year but remains one of the fastest and most committed drivers in the country.
After contesting the Junior WRC last year, David Holder returns to his home series in 2019.
Gilmour has worked hard on improving her Suzuki Swift Maxi and has the benefit of opening the season on roads she knows well around her home town of Dunedin. Summerfield has opted to go back to his older generation Subaru – the car he went so close to winning the 2017 title in.
Marston showed consistency in 2018 and will look to take a step forward this season while Horan impressed in his first full campaign. Now with a few rallies under his belt in his Skoda Fabian R5, it would not surprise to see him battling for rally wins.
Turner has proven to be very quick in his Audi and will hope to put it altogether in 2019.
Phil Campbell has had a few rallies in his Ford Fiesta AP4 and has the talent to compete with the best at the front of the field while Kingsley Jones could be a bit of a wildcard as he gets used to his Skoda Fabia R5.
Another driver to keep an eye on is former 2WD champion Dylan Thomson, who makes the step up to open 4WD this year in a new Subaru.
Australian Brendan Reeves will drive Brian Stokes’ Ford Fiesta AP4 at Otago and should be right in the mix as well.
Jono Shapley (Mitsubishi), Jack Hawkeswood (Mazda), Phil Macquarie (Subaru), Job Quantock (Skoda), Leon Styles (Mitsubishi), Stephen Barker (Mitsubishi) and title sponsor Brian Green (Mitsubishi) will also feature in open 4WD this season.
Strong fields will feature in all categories this season setting up an exciting season ahead.
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