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Auckland’s Andrew Hawkeswood heads to round two of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, the International Rally of Whangarei, looking to continue his haul of points after a strong start to the championship.

The season opener at Otago saw Hawkeswood and co-driver Jeff Cress set the pace early on and claim second place, only losing out after a time penalty for roadside repairs to a split oil cooler, however the Whangarei event has not been kind to him in the past, with retirements in the last two attempts.

Having powered the Mazda 2 AP4+ car to a strong second in the championship, Hawkeswood is well aware that another strong result when many of his rivals struck trouble in the season opener will put him in a strong position for the title of national champion, something Hawkeswood would desperately love to add his CV after more than 20 years at the country’s top level, although in that time he has only completed six full championship seasons.

The measured approach shown at Otago is likely to pay dividends on the Whangarei roads, with a format that sees as many as 75 kilometres of special stages between service parks on some of the most demanding roads in the country. Past results have shown that survival is a key part of a top result.

Hawkeswood will have the full focus of his team after their two-wheel drive car, driven by Andrew’s son Jack, suffered extensive damage at the opening round and won’t be seen again until round four, Rally Coromandel, in August.

“We’re pretty focussed on the championship this year and after a pretty strong start to the season, it’s really important that we get another strong finish at Whangarei. That can be easier said than done up there, certainly the last couple of years haven’t been kind to us,” says Hawkeswood.

“But I’m confident that the boys will give us a strong Mazda and really, I’ve just got to drive the thing properly. It’s going to be all on.”

The International Rally of Whangarei kicks off with a ceremonial start on Whangarei’s Te Matua A Pohe Bridge from 6.15pm, followed immediately by two super special stages.

The following day sees teams tackle eight special stages totalling 152.5km as far north as Paihia, before Sunday’s action sees a further six special stages and 108km of special stages before the ceremonial finish held at Whangarei’s town Basin from 3pm.

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