Victory for Hunt at Waitomo lines up three-way title fight
The race for the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship has taken another twist, with Ben Hunt’s victory at the Handy Rentals Hamilton Rally Waitomo moving him right into contention for the title at the series finale in six weeks time.
Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawstorn took a commanding lead after winning stage three and never looked back in their Subaru WRX STi, reaching the finish 22 seconds ahead of Sloan Cox and Sarah Coatsworth’s (Rotorua) Mitsubishi Evo 10, while Hawke’s Bay driver Max Bayley and Lisa Hudson took third place in their debut in the four-wheel drive class driving a Ford Fiesta R5.
Stage one was won by championship leaders Andrew Hawkeswood and Jeff Cress (Mazda 2 AP4+) despite a puncture late in the stage, but a second puncture and an overheating engine meant the Mazda would come home in fourth place, with the fastest time on the final stage pushing them past Emma Gilmour/Anthony McLoughlin’s Suzuki Swift AP4 by just 3.2 seconds.
The top ten was rounded out by defending national champions David Holder/Jason Farmer, having their first run in Greg Murphy’s Holden Barina AP4+, Matt & Nicole Summerfield (Subaru Impreza), Graham Featherstone/Dave Devenport (Mitsubishi Evo 7), Josh Marston/Andrew Graves (Holden Barina AP4+) and Gull Rally Challenge winners Quentin Palmer/Daniel Bassett.
The NZRC Two-wheel drive class for front-wheel drive cars up to two-litre saw Dylan Thomson and Amy Hudson take a commanding victory in their Ford Fiesta over the similar car of Max Tregilgas and Glenn Goldring, who suffered an overheating engine all day. By virtue of the victory, Thomson receives a free entry and twelve Dunlop tyres for the final round, Rally New Zealand.
The Open Two-wheel drive class saw Marcus van Klink/Dave Neill in their Mazda RX8 take the class victory after rivals and championship leaders Anthony Jones/Tanya Gwynne (Ford Escort) suffered a heavy rollover, but were thankfully okay. Second place went to Brent Taylor/Chris Ramsay (Toyota FT86) with third place going to Wayne Pittmas/Noel Moloney’s Ford Escort.
The Historic class saw Tony Gosling/Blair Read continue their domination in their Ford Escort RS1800, leading home the Mazda RX-3 of Paul Fraser/Chris Davison.
The Gull Rally Challenge four-wheel drive class went the way of Quentin Palmer/Dan Bassett, leading home Richard Bateman/Sharisse Guckert and Jono Walker/Jeremy Dawson in a Mitsubishi Evo podium lock-out, while the two-wheel drive class was won by David Taylor/Pania Huntley in their Honda Civic, leading home the Toyota Starlet of Daniel Alexander/Richard Burnett.
The final round of the Group A challenge went the way of Matt & Karl Adams’ Mitsubishi VR-4, heading home Simon Bell/Warwick Martin in their Subaru Legacy and the Audi Quattro of Phil Collins/Tracy Spark.
Victory for the Adams Brothers was enough to win the title for the second consecutive year, ahead of Ben Brown/Tania Cresswell (Mitsubishi Evo 1) and the Collins/Spark Audi.
Hawkeswood’s fourth place sees him extend his championship lead to 10 points over Hunt, Summerfield just a point further back, heading to the final round, Rally New Zealand based from Tauranga on November 24-26, where teams can score a possible 44 points.
1. Hunt/Rawstorn 2:12:50.7
2. Cox/Coatsworth +22.0
3. Bayley/Hudson +43.3
4. Hawkeswood/Cress +1:18.1
5. Gilmour/McLoughlin +1:21.3