Kiwi rally pundits the Grey Roots Group have again published their annual rankings of the fastest New Zealand rally drivers.
The lists, now in their 15th year, are eagerly anticipated by competitors around the country as a gauge of both their skill level and raw speed, plus an indication of the respect they’ve earned from their fellow drivers.
However, 2020 threw up a peculiar set of circumstances where the number of cancelled events greatly reduced the usual flow of teams across the Cook Strait.
As Roots spokesman Dave Robb explains, “This made it even more difficult than usual to compare drivers’ performances with so little crossover between the two islands. Fewer events also meant just one poor result could see any of our top drivers drop completely out of consideration.”
2020 rankings (2019 position in brackets)
with long-time motorsport benefactors Brian Green and Tony Gosling just missing out on the bitumen top 10, and navigator-turned-driver Jonty Brenssell being bumped out of the 2wd list by a cluster of fellow South Islanders.
Robb is quick to point out that Covid-19 may have stopped some of the ‘big ticket’ events, but the southern rally fraternity seemed undeterred.
“The Mainland rally series continues to attract big numbers, and the South Island shrewdly offers smaller clubman-style events to target newcomers to the sport. It’s a lesson we’re only just starting to heed in the north – clubs don’t need to run multi-day extravaganzas. We have a strong base of rallysprint competitors who are looking to make that next step up; we’re delighted the 2021 calendar is now showing the style of events that have worked so well down south.”
with Quentin Palmer just on the cusp.
“It’s been fascinating to note that 2020 has seen breakthrough wins for some of our younger generation, with Robbie Stokes and Jack Hawkeswood creating their own piece of history. Indeed, this season has been notable for a number of ‘sons of’ making an impact – add in Tim Smith, Mason Grimmer and the incandescently-talented Shane Van Gisbergen – and it’s clear that a good set of chromosomes may be just as valuable as a new set of tyres.”
Two other awards were also announced, with veteran John Kennard once again securing the codrivers’ Ballast Trophy as the ‘Most Valuable Passenger’ and the pairing of Roger Townshend & Jim Hewlett securing the dubious honour of ‘Crash of the Year’ after an unfortunate incident in the dust at Canterbury.
“It’s a timely reminder that our sport is dangerous, but we’re delighted to see them both up and mobile again. Hopefully we’ll see them back out spraying gravel next year – attention is already switching to Rally Otago 2021.”
Media release by Grey Roots Group