The Grey Roots Group has published its 16th annual rankings of the fastest rally drivers in New Zealand.
Like 2020, the 2021 season was again blighted by Covid-related restrictions, which saw most scheduled rallies in the North Island eventually cancelled. Surprisingly, the fewer events on offer made the rankings that much harder to compile, as explained by Group spokesman Mal Peden.
“We rely heavily on head-to-head comparisons to determine our gradings, so with most North Islanders relegated to the role of spectators we had some difficult calculations to make.”
As with previous years, the rankings were determined by outright pace.
“We already have the NZRC and Mainland series doing a fine job of rewarding the successful combination of skill, consistency, budget and teamwork. Our lists are designed solely to recognize one factor – speed. This is a measure of just how fast your peers think you really are.”
While this year’s lists see new faces topping the tarmac and 2wd gravel lists, there’s very familiar faces topping the Overall rankings.
“Hayden Paddon continues to provide the benchmark for any aspiring local rally driver. For some competitors, it’s just a thrill to be competing on the same roads as him. For others – they’re lifting their standards to take a stage off him, then perhaps a leg, etc. Plus, with multiple Ballast Trophy winner (for Most Valuable Passenger) John Kennard beside him, they’re a truly formidable team.”
Top 10 tarmac drivers (2020 ranking in brackets)
- Jason Gill
- Martin Dippie (7)
- Cameron Ross
- Rory Callaway
- Bruce Herbert (6)
- Jeremy Friar (8) and Mike Tubbs (9) equal
- Robert Darrington (4)
- Andrew Oakley (10)
- David Rogers (3)
with veteran Brian Green and Steve Cox just missing selection.
Top 10 2wd gravel drivers
- Ari Pettigrew
- Derek Ayson
- Marcus van Klink (2)
- Deane Buist (3)
- Brent Taylor (7)
- Jeff Judd (4=) and Shane Murland (4=) equal again
- Graham Ferguson (8) and Wayne Pittams equal
- Dylan Thomson and Tim Smith (10=) equal
with John Silcock and Jonty Brenssell on the cusp.
The least sought-after award, for Crash of the Year, went to Jack Hawkeswood and Sarah Brennan’s spectacular exit from the Rally of Whangarei.
“Dylan Turner’s effort at Otago may possibly have been a bigger shunt, but as his camera mysteriously turned itself off mid-incident we’ll never know,” grins Peden.
Outright fastest rally drivers in New Zealand during 2021
- Hayden Paddon (1)
- Robbie Stokes (12)
- Ben Hunt
- Raana Horan (3)
- Emma Gilmour (4)
- Dylan Turner (6=)
- Andrew Graves (10)
- Matt Summerfield (8)
- Josh Marston (13)
- Jack Hawkeswood (5)
- Regan Ross (14)
- Todd Bawden (11)
- Mike Young
- Grant Blackberry (15)
- Kingsley Jones (6=)
- Quentin Palmer (21)
- Phil Campbell (17)
- Ari Pettigrew (2wd)
- Matt Adams
- Derek Ayson (2wd)
- Haydn Mackenzie (16)
- Matt Jensen (24)
- Andy Martin and Marcus van Klink (2wd) equal
- David Sievers (26)
with southerners Wayne Muckle, John Giltrap and Sean Haggarty unlucky not to make the top 25.
“There’s a real buzz growing for next season,” comments Peden. “The reintroduction of Rally New Zealand to the WRC means there’s a lot more public interest in the sport in general, plus there’s obviously a lot of drivers starving for action after enforced Lockdown.”
“With so many new cars and driver/navigator combinations in the pipeline, we’re anticipating 2022 is going to be a big year.”
by Rob Scott