Ben Hunt
Photo credit: Jason Byrne

Grey Roots Group Annual rankings announced

Rally enthusiasts, the Grey Roots Group, have today released their rankings of the nation’s fastest rally drivers.

The annual lists, now in their 10th year of publication, are eagerly awaited by the rallying fraternity as a measure of how their driving skills are perceived by their peers.

The experienced judging panel, with a competition history ranging the full gamut of clubman through to WRC events, scoured through the stage times of every rally on the 2015 domestic calendar. From there, they determined the relative pace of each driver, irrespective of aberrant data due to punctures or mechanical issues.

Group spokesman Kayne Barrie says, “It’s a real pleasure watching the names coming through the ranks over the last decade. I’m particularly pleased to see the former Fiesta drivers now amongst the front runners in our fields. This was a marvellous experiment that has since proved its worth, with so many learning car control before graduating to 4wd. Early indications suggest another wave of Fiesta drivers are on their way for the 2016 season.”

The 2015 rankings are as follows (2014 position in brackets):

Top Ten Tarmac drivers 
Top Ten 2wd Gravel drivers
1.  Glenn Inkster (3)
1.  Hayden Paddon
2.  Chris West  
2.  Deane Buist
3.  Martin Dippie (11)        
3.  Max Bayley
4.  Leigh Hopper (4)    
4.  Derek Ayson (5
5.  Jason Gill (6) 
5=  Marcus van Klink (7)
6.  Steven Kirk-Burnnand 
5=  Anthony Jones (9
7.  Marcus Van Klink           
7.  Regan Ross (2)
8.  Brian Green         
8.  Brian Stokes (8)
9.  Robert Darrington           
9.  Robert McCallum
10.  Nic De Waal (9)     
10= Justin Glavish, Tony Gosling

with Matt Todd unlucky not to make the tarmac top ten, and Brent Taylor and Craig Stevens tied on 12th equal for the 2wd gravel ranks.

Another driver unlucky not to feature was expat Mike Young.

“Mike surprised a lot of pundits at the Whangarei APRC round with his outright pace. We’d become accustomed to seeing him in underpowered cars against minimal opposition, so his speed in a 4wd car was a revelation. The panel couldn’t agree on his eligibility for our lists, but we felt we should still acknowledge what would’ve been a top ten performance.”

A luxury of a decade of data was seeing some familiar names in the inaugural lists. Hayden Paddon features in that first 2006 ranking as only the 10th fastest in the country, only marginally quicker than Mark Tapper in a 2wd. Another notable fact is that Emma Gilmour is now the only driver to have featured every year, a testament to her outstanding abilities behind the wheel.

Top Twenty Outright Gravel drivers

1.  Ben Hunt (3)
9=  Darren Galbraith
2.  David Holder (6=)
9=  Stewart Taylor (4)
3.  Alex Kelsey
13=  Dylan Turner (15)
4.  Matt Summerfield (13)
13=  Geof Argyle (11)
5.  Hayden Paddon 2wd (9)
15.  Glenn Inkster
6.  Grant Blackberry
16.  Graham Featherstone (17)
7.  Phil Campbell (10)
17=  Deane Buist 2wd
8.  Andrew Hawkeswood (6=)
17=  Sloan Cox (5)
9.  Emma Gilmour (8)
19. Shannon Chambers
10.  Lance Williams (19)
20.  Kingsley Jones
with Dave Strong and Clinton Cunningham on the cusp of selection.

“We believe the sport is in good health at the moment,” says Barrie, “despite the lack of an internationally-recognized class. Instead, we have a situation where the eyes of the world are on what we’re doing here in New Zealand. There’s a fascination in the new breed of cars we’re developing here – not just Alex Kelsey’s MC2, but the cars coming out of the Hawkeswood stable, not to mention Patrick Malley, Shannon Chambers and the new Mirage.”

“These are serious cars, being built by some seriously clever people and they’re an exciting addition to our rally fields. It may be another year or two before we can coax the WRC back to these shores, but this new era of vehicles will easily bolster the public’s imagination until then.”

by Rob Scott

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