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New Zealand’s Grey Roots Group have released their 12th annual ranking of New Zealand’s fastest rally drivers. The Group, formed in 2006 by members of the former Rally Pilots Association, have spent the last decade promoting the sport and acknowledging excellence by local competitors. In recent years this has included a popular Facebook page, with nearly 1000 followers that has ruthlessly and satirically analysed each event on the rally calendar. Group spokesman, and semi-retired co-driver, Malcolm Peden, explains the philosophy behind the group. “We have a lot of fun preparing these lists – but do treat it seriously. Competitors know they are being judged by their peers, so take a real sense of pride when we acknowledge them as elite performers. “The rankings are determined solely by their outright speed in special stages,” he assures. “We have the benefit of being able to ignore times affected by punctures or mechanical issues. And by judging as a Group, we avoid the potential for individual bias.”
Deane Buist

Escort driver Deane Buist is New Zealand's top ranked 2WD rally driver. Photo: Geoff Ridder

The 2017 rankings are as follows (with 2016 position in brackets): Top 10 gravel 2WD drivers 1. Deane Buist (1) 2. Regan Ross (2) = 3. Derek Ayson (5), Robert McCallum (4) 5. Anthony Jones (8) 6. Dylan Thomson 7. Dylan Cameron 8. Marcus Van Klink (3) 9. Tony Gosling (7) = 10. Max Tregilgas, Brent Taylor https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOmBrKSfsDQ Top 10 tarmac drivers 1. Glenn Inkster (1) 2. Leigh Hopper (5) 3. Chris West (4) 4. Jason Gill (3) = 5. Nic de Waal (12), Tony Quinn (6=) 7. Martin Dippie (6=) 8. Mike Lea 9. Steven Kirk-Burnnand (10) 10. Robert Darrington (13) On the cusp of selection, David Rogers just missed out on the sealed surface list, while veteran John Silcock narrowly missed making the 2WD gravel list. As Peden notes, there is a familiar feel to most of the selections. “Experience keeps coming to the fore with these rankings. You can be young, brave and fast for a couple of stages, but it is mainly the older wiser heads that can maintain that serious pace required for an entire rally.” As previously, the Grey Roots Group have earlier announced the winner of the annual Ballast Trophy, for the nation’s most valuable navigator. WRC star John Kennard has again secured the honour, his fifth time since its inception in 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WSZgf6gOeE Also featured as Crash of the Year winners were Jeff Ward and Murray O’Neill, who catapulted their Hillman Hunter into the scenery at Rally Coromandel. “No-one wants to go off the road at high speed, but these lads did it with style.” Special mention also went to Anthony Jones and Tanya Gwynne for their alarming exit at Rally Waitomo, and the subsequent rebuild that saw them back on the start line for Rally New Zealand.
Hayden Paddon Rally New Zealand

Hayden Paddon showed his class by dominating Rally New Zealand. Photo: Geoff Ridder

Top 20 Outright gravel drivers 1. Hayden Paddon (1) 2. Andrew Hawkeswood (9) 3. Sloan Cox (5) 4. David Holder (2) 5. Matt Summerfield (7) 6. Ben Hunt (6) 7. Andrew Graves (15) 8. Rhys Gardner (18) 9. Graham Featherstone (14) = 10. Emma Gilmour (8), Deane Buist 2wd (17) 12. Dylan Turner (12) 13. Adam Bligh = 14. Darren Galbraith, Glenn Inkster (12) 16. Phil Campbell (16) 17. Josh Marston 18. Greg Murphy 19. Quentin Palmer 20. Jeff Judd Michael Tall, Keith Anderson and Jonathan Walker were unlucky not to make the top 20 cutoff.
New Zealand rally drivers

L-R: Blair Bartels, Ben Hunt, Matt Summerfield and Andrew Hawkeswood. Photo: Geoff Ridder

“We feel the top of the sport is in good health,” declares Peden, who guided the Force Motorsport team to this year’s NZRC title. “The AP4 concept has proven its value, with unprecedented manufacturer interest in local rallying. The news that Hayden (Paddon) will be contesting most of the 2018 domestic championship will be a significant drawcard for fans and competitors alike, and is likely to draw more Australian competitors across the Tasman. “We have to keep nurturing the grass roots level, though. The NZRC is doing this with their popular lower-budget Category 5, but the dearth of regional events means many competitors are struggling to make that mental jump from rallysprinting to mainstream rallying. “We’ll continue to support any initiative that gets more clubman rally drivers out enjoying the back roads of New Zealand.”

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