Hawkeswood wins tough bat­tle

Bay of Plenty Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Colin Smith

Atight bat­tle on North­land gravel roads saw 2017 New Zealand rally cham­pion An­drew Hawkeswood (Auck­land) drive his ti­tle-win­ning Mazda2 AP4 car back into the win­ner’s cir­cle on Satur­day.

Mak­ing only their third ap­pear­ance of the 2018 sea­son, Hawkeswood and co-driver Jeff Cress claimed a nar­row win over the new Ford Fi­esta AP4 of Phil Camp­bell (Tau­ranga) and Mal Pe­den (Cam­bridge) in the Copthorne Bay of Is­lands Far North Rally.

Hawkeswood and Camp­bell swapped the lead dur­ing the eight-stage event with Hawkeswood win­ning the open­ing stage at Ruapekapeka be­fore Camp­bell took over the lead af­ter stage two.

Camp­bell’s lead­ing mar­gin stretched to 15.3secs fol­low­ing stage three be­fore Hawkeswood be­gan to trim Camp­bell’s ad­van­tage, edg­ing back into the lead by 0.9secs af­ter stage six and and tak­ing the rally win by 3.9secs when the event reached the fin­ish at Wai­tangi.

“We had a few is­sues with the brakes in the first stage and with deep gravel but every­one will have had some­thing like that,” said Hawkeswood.

“I re­ally en­joyed the rally and the fight with Phil.

“That’s what I love most about ral­ly­ing — three or four drivers win­ning stages with the lead chang­ing around and be­ing a part of that.”

There were also stage wins for Hamil­ton’s Stephen Barker (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo6.5) and 2015 na­tional champ Ben Hunt (Auck­land), who was driv­ing an older Subaru WRX STI rather than his usual NZRC mount.

Hunt fin­ished in third place, 41.7secs be­hind Hawkeswood and 11.7secs ahead of Barker while fifth place went to Hamil­ton’s Brad McFar­lane (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X).

Sev­eral of the top 10 seeds failed to fin­ish with Raana Ho­ran (Auck­land) rolling his new Skoda Fabia R5 which led to the can­cel­la­tion of the penul­ti­mate stage while dam­age from an of­froad ex­cur­sion also ended the rally for Auck­land’s Pa­trick Mal­ley (Peu­geot 208 Proto) af­ter stage two.

Tau­ranga’s Ben Thomasen re­tired his Subaru Im­preza with gear­box prob­lems while run­ning in sev­enth place while a lengthy de­lay in stage four saw Hamil­ton’s Todd Baw­den (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo6) fin­ish 24th hav­ing set sev­eral quick stage times.

There was also a close bat­tle for 2WD hon­ours with a podium An­drew Hawkeswood claimed a nar­row win at the Rally of the Far North on Satur­day. Tau­ranga’s Phil Camp­bell pro­duced an­other promis­ing per­for­mance with his new Ford Fi­esta AP4 tak­ing sec­ond place at the Rally of the Far North. Alis­ter McRae pow­ers through the top hair­pin on his way to vic­tory in the Ash­ley For­est Rallysprint. Ben Hunt charg­ing hard on his way to third place at the Rally of the Far North. headed by 13th placed McCrae Sloper (BMW 328i) ahead of Brent Tay­lor (Toy­ota FT 86) and Dave Strong (Honda Civic Type R) and sep­a­rated by just 32.3secs af­ter 121km of com­pet­i­tive driv­ing. Hay­den Pad­don clocked the fastest time of the week­end but his rallysprint hopes were dashed by an oil fil­ter fail­ure and en­gine dam­age. The Far North Clas­sic Rally was won by the Audi Qu­at­tro S1 of Ge­off and Kerri-anne James. ■ West Aus­tralia-based Scots­man Alis­ter McRae has be­come the first in­ter­na­tional win­ner of the Win­max Brakes Ash­ley For­est Rallysprint in North Can­ter­bury.

McRae, a for­mer Subaru, Hyundai and Mitsubishi WRC driver, out­lasted the op­po­si­tion in the Van­tage Alu­minium Subaru Im­preza WRC 98 to win the fi­nal with a 55.35secs run and come close to bet­ter­ing the 54.96secs course record set last year by Ro­torua’s Sloan Cox.

It was a day of dis­ap­point­ment for the two other draw­card at­trac­tions at the 31st run­ning of New Zealand’s best known rallysprint.

WRC star Hay­den Pad­don (Wanaka) set the early pace and posted a 55.00secs ef­fort in first elim­i­na­tion round but his bid to win the event ended when his much-mod­i­fied Hyundai i20 AP4+ rally car suf­fered en­gine fail­ure (the re­sult of an oil fil­ter prob­lem) in the Top-16 run.

Sloan Cox had been side­lined ear­lier in the day with trans­mis­sion is­sues in his Mitsubishi Lancer Hill­climb Spe­cial hav­ing set a fastest time of 56.02secs.

The run­ner-up was Blen­heim’s Neil Webb, a for­mer New Zealand hill­climb cham­pion, driv­ing his Mitsubishi Mi­rage hatch which is equipped with Lancer Evo run­ning gear. Webb im­proved with ev­ery run and posted an im­pres­sive 56.04secs run in the fi­nal to bet­ter his best pre­vi­ous best Ash­ley For­est re­sult of third over­all in 2016.

There was a tight Subaru Im­preza bat­tle to de­cide third place in the semi­fi­nal round with Ran­giora’s Matt Sum­mer­field dip­ping un­der the one-minute bar­rier to record 59.67secs and edge Darfield’s Garet Thomas by a dif­fer­ence mea­sured in thou­sandths of a sec­ond. ■ The Taupo Clas­sic Rally Club has can­celled its Club­mans for­mat tar­mac rally for two-wheel-drive cars. The event was sched­uled to run this Sun­day on a mix­ture of for­est and pub­lic roads north of Taupo but the club says a lack of en­tries caused the can­cel­la­tion.

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