A second day charge delivered Andrew Hawkeswood some valuable points from the International Rally of Whangarei, round two of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship.

Hawkeswood headed to the event holding a strong second in the championship standings, but struggled in the morning loop of stages on day one with a puncture and some handling problems. The resulting time loss would mean he would drop from third to eighth at the lunch time service.

Worse was to follow prior to the start of the afternoon’s stages when a broken driveshaft left the Mazda with only front-wheel drive, and with more than 75 kilometres of special stages in treacherous conditions, Hawkeswood made the tough decision to retire.

Day two saw Hawkeswood determined to take maximum day points and it showed in the times. A stage win and two second fastest times saw Hawkeswood head to the mid-day service with a lead for the leg of more than 25 seconds.

As the day carried on, so did the speed, and in the end Hawkeswood and co-driver Jeff Cress salvaged the day win in the Mazda 2 AP4+, 53.2 seconds ahead of the chasing pack in just six special stages and more importantly, claiming seven valuable bonus points towards their championship campaign.

“Obviously it’s pretty gutting to be forced out on day one. In hindsight, with one of the stages being cancelled and lots of other competitors striking trouble, it may have been worth carrying on, but at the time it was the right decision,” said Hawkeswood.

“On day two, it really was important that we took as many points as we could, which we did, and the pleasing thing was the speed we were able to achieve the result with. We’re still well in the fight.

The failure to score round points has seen Hawkeswood slip to sixth in the standings, but only 11 points away from the championship lead in one of the most hotly contested series in recent history. That battle will continue at Rally Canterbury on June 4.

Story: Blair Bartels / Photo: Geoff Ridder

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