Andrew Hawkeswood has confirmed his status as a genuine contender for the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship title in 2017 after a strong run netted him second place at the opening round, the Drivesouth Otago Rally, held over the weekend.
Hawkeswood entered the event with a determination to put a solid result on the board as he chases an elusive NZRC title and made the perfect start with two stage wins on the opening two stages and by the opening service after stage three powered the Mazda 2 AP4+ to a lead to more than 20 seconds.
Stage four was identified by Hawkeswood as a potential game changer with a large variety of road conditions to catch out even the most experienced driver. Unfortunately Hawkeswood backed off a little too far and lost close to 40 seconds, dropping him to second. There was further drama when he and co-driver Jeff Cress discovered a cracked oil cooler. Although able to effect repairs on the side of the road, the pair arrived to the next stage five minutes late and received 50 seconds in time penalties and dropping them to fifth.
With points to be gained, Hawkeswood put the bit between his teeth and charged, with three stage wins almost halving the gap to 35 seconds and moving to third place by the end of the day.
Day two saw Hawkeswood make a solid start to reduce the margin to 20 seconds by the opening service and was determined to pounce through the 47 kilometre stage through the Berwick Forest that has so often shaped the outcome of the Otago Rally. A second fastest time through the stage elevated Hawkeswood into second place.
The final three stages saw Hawkeswood secure his result, while a third fastest time on the power stage offered up a valuable three bonus points. By the end of the final stage, the margin between himself and the lead was 45.9 seconds, well within the 50 seconds the previous day’s penalty had cost him.
The weekend was not so easy for Andrew’s son Jack, who punctuated some strong stage times on both days with unfortunate accidents.
“It was a pretty good weekend really, this year is all about trying to win a championship and it’s the best start we’ve had to a season in a long time, so I’m pretty happy,” said Hawkeswood. “I probably backed off a bit much in stage four and then it was obviously a bit frustrating to lose time with the oil cooler, but it was lucky we found it when we did.”
The Force Motorsport team now turn their attention to round two of the NZRC, the International Rally of Whangarei, on April 28-30.
The Force Motorsport team would like to thank Mazda New Zealand for their continued support.
Press Release by BB Media