A handful of New Zealand rally drivers got a sneak test of the new purpose-built Jack’s Ridge stage in South Auckland earlier this week.
Pukekohe’s Dylan Turner (Audi AP4), Papakura’s Kingsley Jones (Skoda R5), Cambridge’s Anthony Jones (Millington powered Escort) and Brookby’s Jack Hawkeswood (Mazda AP4) – for whom the stage is named after – got to drive the new stage on former New Zealand Rally Champion Andrew Hawkeswood’s property near Brookby School.
Hawkeswood constructed the 7km-long stage on his property with the thought of using it as a special stage in the World Rally Championship’s Rally New Zealand, which was set to return in September before Covid-19 forced its postponement.
In conjunction with Rally New Zealand the stage will now be used in November’s City of Auckland Rally – a one day event using the roads in Whitford, Riverhead and in the Kaipara region north of Auckland and will then play home to a one-day rally sprint based entirely on the Hawkeswood property the following day.
It will attract the best drivers in New Zealand with WRC star Hayden Paddon committing to taking part in his Hyundai.
Under the eye of Rally New Zealand officials and some special dignitaries the drivers spent a couple hours shaking down the stage on Monday.
After their runs the drivers were noticeably impressed.
“It is awesome – absolutely awesome,” Jones told Counties Sports Hub. “It has some really grouse corners and some big commitment jumps, which I’m not quite there yet.
“It will take a bit of getting used to but we will try and get some secret testing up here, have a play and see if we can sort that out.”
Several NZ drivers got to try out the Jack's Ridge stage this week. Photos: Geoff Ridder
The location offers plenty of undulation; there are tight corners, fast sections and some spectacular jumps that will test the very best drivers out.
Jones acknowledges the drivers that tackle those jumps the best will be the guys to beat.
“It is commitment to jumps – you have to learn where to place the car,” he explained. “Depending on how ballsy you are – some people just don’t care and take everything flat – but when you are driving a car like this [an imported Skoda Fabia R5]; it is everything I own. It makes it a little harder to get out and do that.
“I just need to get it right in my head and I am happy to take 20 goes rather than one to commit.”
Spectators will love the location as well – it is as close to the Auckland population as is possible and offers spectacular views of the stage as well as the Auckland city and harbour landscape in the background.
The City of Auckland Rally will take place on Saturday November 14 with the Battle of Jack’s Ridge set for Sunday November 15.
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