RALLY NEW ZEALAND
The 2017 year was a fitting one for the resurrection of Rally New Zealand, having just celebrated 50 years of rallying in New Zealand. It was a twoday event held on the final weekend in November in splendid hot conditions. A total of 54 cars entered the event, which had four stages based around Raglan on Saturday, while, on Sunday, the cars raced on stages in the Tauranga region, all of which racked up to a total of 226.88km of special stages over the two days. Sunday’s racing included additional 33 cars from the Tauranga Clubmans. It was good to finally see cars racing on the famous Whaanga coast stage, which, when the World Rally Championship ( WRC) cars used to race it many years back, was rated one of the best stages worldwide.
The New Zealand Rally Championship ( NZRC) had three drivers vying for the 2017 winner’s trophy — Matt Summerfield (Subaru Impreza STI), Andrew Hawkeswood (Mazda2 AP4), and Ben Hunt (Subaru WRX STI). Hayden Paddon was also an inclusion, paired up with his longtime and recently retired co-driver John Kennard. Paddon put on a near-perfect drive to secure the Rally New Zealand trophy, winning all 12 stages to finish seven minutes and 28 seconds ahead of second-place-getters Matt and Nicole Summerfield, who had to battle through a broken head gasket. Andrew Hawkeswood and co-driver Jeff Cress came home third, but this was enough to crown them 2017 Rally New Zealand champions.
Further back in the Historic class, which is for historic cars that are the genuine article, Tony Gosling and co-driver Blair Read in the Escort RS1800 had all but sealed the Historic title heading into this event, being 30 points clear of Paul Fraser and Chris Davidson in yet another RS1800. They did have to at least finish the race with all but a few points to be assured the trophy for the second year running — which they did. Mike and Helen Cameron in the Mitsubishi Lancer were the third inclusion in the Historic class. Unfortunately, Mike and Helen were one of the 17 retirements when they had to pull over with a broken tie rod.
The championship included a plethora of older cars entered into various classes. This included the Escort of Anthony Jones and Tanya Gwynne, who in fact won the Category 3 (Open 2WD) championship with their ninth placing.
With the 2017 championship now over, the wait is on for the start of the 2018 championship, which will start with the Otago Rally on April 14.