Hawkeswood wins tough battle
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.