Subaru driver Ben Hunt has fine-tuned his Subaru WRX STi into a “highly competitive package” ahead of this weekend’s Drivesouth Rally of Otago.
Now in his third season competing in the Subaru, Hunt will be one of the favourites in the six-round 2018 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC). He and long-term co-driver Tony Rawstorn finished third at the end of last season and they are keen to repeat their 2015 NZRC-winning success.
“We return to the championship this year following on from a great year in 2017, which saw huge car developments throughout the season. We have a highly competitive package that delivered two event wins and was a front-runner at multiple events,” Hunt says.
Over the off-season, the Hunt Motorsports team have fully rebuilt the Subaru and further improved the race-day package. New brakes have been fitted and the refreshed engine, plus weight reduction in critical areas, has resulted in an improved chassis balance. The body and panels have had some extra love, as well as a full respray in Subaru World Rally blue.
To get some competitive action in over summer, Auckland-based Hunt drove his Subaru rally car at February’s Leadfoot Festival in the Coromandel.
“This is an amazing weekend where some of the world’s best cars and drivers all compete to be ‘King of Millen’s Mountain’. I ran my Subaru in full rally trim including gravel spec tyres – putting on a real show for the crowd. My Vantage Motorsport teammate Alister McRae took overall honours for the second year running, so I might just need to build an unrestricted engine package to try wrestle the title away from him,” Hunt says.
However, this weekend his focus is honed on the 17-stage, two-day, Dunedin-based event, which covers 281km of competitive rallying. The organisers have changed up the format and Hunt cannot wait to unleash his Subaru WRX STi beast on the world-famous gravel roads.
“All the stages we love from Sunday have been moved to Saturday. Kuri Bush, the stage that every driver who has competed at Otago has a story about, is now stage 7 – talk about an adrenaline spike on a Saturday afternoon! Bonus points are on offer again with the five fastest drivers in the stage able to open their championship points’ account early. The organisers must have decided that the drivers’ heart rates weren’t high enough after Kuri, as they followed it up with McIntosh Road, which finishes the day’s gravel stages with plenty of air and ‘hang time’,” Hunt says of the stage featuring some serious jumps and blind crests.
A new format for the tarmac super special in Dunedin has also been introduced.
“In the intersections this year are bales the cars will rotate around before heading back in opposite direction and all cars are running on gravel spec tyres, so expect smoke, noise and the odd spin from drivers being caught out holding the handbrake too long.”
Sunday’s stages head north of Dunedin and run between Palmerston and Middlemarch. These roads are fast and flowing. Hunt says the levels of concentration to get the corners perfect on these stages are some of the highest he and Rawstorn experience in the NZRC.
“You are up near the rev limiter in top gear for an extended period of time on these stages and setting good times here is extremely rewarding.”
“We are looking forward to attacking the Otago Rally the way we finished last season – on the podium,” Hunt says.
The Otago Rally finishes outside the Railway Station in Dunedin from 3pm on Sunday.
Hunt Motorsports is grateful for support in the 2018 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship from: Subaru of New Zealand, Hydraulink, Motul Oil, Vantage Windows and Doors, Speedhub Motorsport, Gull NZ Fuel, Dunlop, Winger Subaru, Hella NZ, Reiger suspension, Bluebridge, MTF Finance, The Body Shop, Wurth, Entech, CL Brakes, Vernon Developments, TCC Solutions, Hitech Motorsport, Hunt Diesel, Make Architects, Nuzest, SOS and Hammer King.