Andrew Hawkeswood has made his best start to the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship in more than a decade, showing plenty of speed in the new Mazda 2 and leaving the event fourth in the championship standings.
After two seasons, Hawkeswood and the Force Motorsport team built the latest generation Mazda 2 for the 2016 season with major modifications to the suspension from the car used previously.
The opening stage of the event would see front running cars heavily penalised by dust before the breeze picked up for the day and Hawkeswood certainly suffered. At the end of the stage, the discovery that a front axle had popped out added to the overheating brake problem over the second half of the stage.
After earning a minute of penalties repairing the car, Hawkeswood and co-driver Jeff Cress immediately carried on to set the third fastest time in both stages two and three to claw their way back from 33rd to 16th before the first service.
A return of brake problems in Danseys Pass saw a cautious approach on the stage famous for big drops and spectacular views, but an otherwise clean run saw Hawkeswood make his way back into the top ten by day’s end and encouraged by the pace heading into the following day.
The second day again started with dust for Hawkeswood when a fellow competitor stopped to change a puncture and rejoined in front of the Mazda. Despite the issue, Hawkeswood was able to set the fifth fastest time.
A string of top five stage times, only interrupted by a puncture, saw Hawkeswood continue to move up the leaderboard, getting to the end of the day in fifth place. As an added bonus, fourth in the power stage as well as for the second leg, both of which pay bonus points, bumped Hawkeswood into fourth place in the NZRC standings.
“It was a fantastic start to the season, there is still plenty to work on with the car and the driver, but there is plenty to be happy about. When you take Hayden (WRC star Hayden Paddon) out of the mix, we were battling with all the normal front runners. We’ve learnt a lot that we need to do for Whangarei, so the future is looking exciting,” said Hawkeswood.
The Force Motorsport team now turn their attention to the International Rally of Whangarei on April 29-May 1.
Press Release by BB Media