A record field of 56 teams will assemble for round four of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship fuelled by Gull and driven by Dunlop, the Mahindra Goldrush Rally Coromandel. Based from Coromandel holiday town of Whitianga crews will tackle seven special stages and 140 kilometres of competitive action over one leg on Saturday 26th August.
The field will be headed by New Zealand’s own World Rally Championship star Hayden Paddon, who will reunite with long term co-driver John Kennard for the event. The pair will compete in a Hyundai i20 AP4+ car and are expected to have a Trans-Tasman battle with second seed Australian pairing of Brendan Reeves and Ben Searcy. Reeves the defending winner of the Cormandel Rally, returns to join the Force Motorsport Team and drive an all new Mazda 2 AP4. Ironically the pair head to the Coromandel after working together at the German WRC round, with Reeves preparing gravel notes for Paddon.
Current championship leaders Matt and Nicole Summerfield are third seeds in their Subaru Impreza. The Rangiora brother and sister team hold a ten point championship lead after victory at the previous two NZRC rounds. Closest rivals after a consistent opening half to the championship is Balcluthas Rhys Garnder and Alex Ramsay who will make their first apperance at Coromandel while third in the championship is Aucklands Andrew Hawkeswood/Jeff Cress in their Mazda 2 AP4+. Hawkeswood has been one of the pacesetters but had his run dogged by niggling issues. With Coromandel marking the start of the second half of the championship race, all drivers will need to temper speed with finishing to score vital points in the remaining three rounds.
Returning to the championship at Coromandel driving a borrowed Subaru Impreza will be defending national champions David Holder and Jason Farmer. Rounding out the top 10 seeds, and highlighting the current strength of the NZRC are 2015 event winners Ben Hunt/Tony Rawstorn (Subaru WRX), Sloan Cox/Sarah Coatsworth (Mitusbishi Evo 10), Graham Featherstone/Dave Devenport (Mitsubishi Evo 7), Emma Gilmour/Anthony McLoughlin (Suzuki Swift Maxi) and Alex Kelsey/Malcolm Read, Kelsey returning to the series after two years in his spectaular home-built ‘Mad-Creation 2’.
The 2 car Holden Barina team of Christchurch’s Josh Marston/Andrew Graves and former Bathurst winner Greg Murphy, who teams up with Mark Leonard will also take to the Cormandel Peninsula roads.
The NZRC two-wheel drive field is led by Dylan Thomson/Amy Hudson, who will be chasing class leaders Max Tregilgas/Glenn Goldring. The duo, both driving Ford Fiesta’s, will have competition from Nathan Tough/Samantha Gray (Honda CRX) and brother/sister team Robbie and Amy Stokes in their Toyota Levin.
Competition will also be fierce in the open two-wheel drive with their biggest field of the season to date. Series leaders Anthony Jones/Tanya Gwynne (Ford Escort) and crowd favourites Marcus van Klink/Dave Neill (Mazda RX8) head the field but will face opposition from Brent Taylor/Chris Ramsay (Toyota FT86), Wayne Pittams/Noel Moloney (Ford Escort) and Jeff Ward/Murray O’Neill (Hillman Hunter V8). The class also features young guns Jack Williamson/Brenda Williamson (Suzuki Swift) and Jack Hawkeswood/Mark Tapper in their Mazda RX7.
The Historic class will see the continuation of a season long battle between between the Ford Escort RS1800 of Tony Gosling/Blair Read and the Mazda RX7 Grp B of John Silcock/Richard Atkinson. However if either stumbles, they will have to fight off Graeme Coey/Tony Witheridge in their Mitsubishi Lancer, Paul Fraser/Dan Reichenbach (Ford Escort RS1800) and Mike and Helen Cameron (Mitsubishi Lancer).
Also on show over the weekend will be the Gull Rally Challenge, which has been highly competitive across the season. Leading the charge in the four-wheel drive class at Whitianga will be Matt Jensen/Kieran Anstis with Adam Bligh/Ric Chalmers, Jono Walker/Jeremy Dawson, Richard Bateman/Sharisse Guckert, Warwick Redfern/Ron Bartels and Quentin Palmer/Daniel Basset all chasing in similar Mitsubishi Evo’s. However they are all chasing the consistent streak of points leaders Jono Shapley/Sam Byrne, while third placed Fred Merkin/Sandra Everson will be looking to continue their run of podium finishes.
The two-wheel drive side of the class sees experienced Canterbury driver Jeff Judd/Matt Richards in their Ford Escort join the class, taking on front runners David Taylor/Pania Huntley (Honda Civic), Daniel Alexander/Richard Burnett (Toyota Startlet) and Richard Harding/David McFarlane (Ford Escort).
The Group A challenge sees round two winners Matt and Karl Adams the top seed in their Mitsubishi Galant VR4. Phil Collins and Tracy Spark also take on the stages of the Coromandel in their Audi Quattro, while this round sees several new entries join in the form of Marty Smith/Dom Adams, Chris Sheriff/Daniel Vernall and Simon Bell/Warwick Martin, all driving Subaru Legacys.
This year’s Mahindra Goldrush Rally Coromandel sees crews leave the Mercury Bay Sports park from 7.00am on Saturday 26 August. They will cover just under 140 kilometres of special stage across the Coromandel Peninsula before the finish from 4.30pm at Blacksmith Lane in Whitianga.