New Zealand Classic Car - - CONTENTS - Words and pho­tos: Steve Ritchie

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.

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