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For the first time in more than 15 years, a Mazda will return to the premier class of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship driven by VINZ when Andrew Hawkeswood’s Mazda 2 Maxi makes its NZRC debut at Rally Otago this weekend.

Hawkeswood, widely regarded as New Zealand’s most spectacular rally driver, initially planned to debut the car last season but delays in the build of the car and work commitments meant the Aucklander has to date completed just one club rally in the car, where he was able to record a podium finish.

Since then, the car has been further developed with both engine and suspension modifications being made and after some recent testing Hawkeswood is confident he can record a top five finish in the event.

There will be plenty of experience guiding Hawkeswood on the event with six-time New Zealand Rally Champion co-driver Rob Ryan moving into the left seat of the Mazda to call the pace notes for the Dunedin based event.

The Otago Rally is one that Hawkeswood has experienced success on in the past, with two victories in the allcomers section of the event and numerous podium finishes to his name for the event, something Hawkeswood puts down to the nature of the roads.

“The roads down there really suit my driving style, the nice long corners and rolling crests especially on the day one roads are fantastic, it is certainly an event I am always sad to miss,” says Hawkeswood. “We’ve made some big improvements with the car too so I am excited that Mazda can return to the front of the field after a long break.”

Rally Otago gets underway with a ceremonial start in The Octagon from 5pm on Friday. Special stage action gets underway the following day around the Lawrence area including the monster 50km Manuka Hill before returning to Dunedin for the iconic tarmac super special stage at 3pm. Day two sees the more traditional Otago stages around the Lake Waihola and after a total of 283km, crews will return to the ceremonial finish at the Dunedin Railway station from 3pm on Sunday.

Photo: Geoff Ridder

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