Press Release

Latest Rally News

Big field heads south for 2024 Otago Rally

A quality field of 117 cars – the biggest field in four years – will start this year’s Central Machine Hire Otago Rally, to be based in Dunedin from April 12 to 14.

The popular event is New Zealand’s traditional start to the rally season and once again qualifies as round one of the Asia-Pacific (APRC) and New Zealand Rally Championships.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the absence of 10-time Otago Rally winner Hayden Paddon, who is expected to announce his 2024 plans very shortly. However, his place will be taken by the super-quick Indian driver, Gaurav Gill.

The three-time Asia-Pacific Rally Champion will drive Paddon’s Hyundai i20 N Rally2 in the APRC field (promoted by Vamcy Merla), and will provide a major challenge to a host of local rivals.

There are eight drivers registered for the Pacific Cup section of the APRC, five of which will also be in the running for first-up honours in the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC).

With the top three placegetters from last year, Paddon, Raana Horan and Josh Marston, all not competing this year, it may give local driver Emma Gilmour her best chance of winning her home event. 

It will be the first time since 2017 that Paddon hasn’t won the rally for Hyundai, with Gilmour keen to put her Citroen C3 Rally2 at the top of the time sheets. However, she’ll have tough competition from Ben Hunt’s Skoda Fabia, the Ford Fiestas of Robbie Stokes and Tod Bawden, and Jack Hawkeswood in his Toyota Yaris AP4.

Zeal Jones impressed a lot of people in 2023 in an older Subaru, and this year a lot of eyes will be on him as the Otago Rally scholarship winner is stepping up to a Skoda Fabia R5.

The 4WD Classic event is now stronger than ever with top-seed Andrew Graves the hot favourite in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3. A big challenge is expected by current American Rally Champion, Brandon Semenuk, who will be the crowd favourite in his Subaru H6, but he won’t have it all his own way with third seed Christchurch’s Tim Smith also Subaru mounted.

A little further down the field, Steve Cox’s magnificent Audi Quattro S1 works replica is certain to keep spectators entertained.

Ben Hunt heads the NZRC field for the 2024 Otago Rally. Photos: Peter Whitten

There are 20 international teams from nine countries in this year’s event, with many of those contesting the Otago International Classic Rally for two-wheel drive cars.

Five-time World Rally Championship event winner, Kris Meeke, looks to be the standout entry in the Rossendale Wines Ford Escort RS1800, in a top 10 that includes seven Escorts and three Mazda RX7s.

Former winner Marcus van Klink will be back behind the wheel of this Group B replica Mazda for the first time in some years, while regular NZRC front-runner, Ari Pettigrew, may be a dark horse in a 2.4-litre Nissan-powered Escort.

Aussie hot shots Tristan Carrigan and Richie Dalton are also in the top 10 in rented Escorts and are likely to keep the local stars honest, while Central Machine Hire owner, Allan Dippie, returns in his pretty Porsche 911 RS.

The Leviathan Hotel Allcomers Rally again proves its value as a mainstay of rallying, providing an eclectic mix of cars and crews, led by former Classic 4WD speedster Sean Haggarty and Australian Braeden Kendrick who has swapped his Holden Commodore V8 for a rented Toyota Altezza.

“We’re delighted with the quality and depth of the field, wherever you look there are quality competitors and lots of fascinating battles,” event promotions manager Roger Oakley, said.  

“Spectators are in for a treat with stars right throughout the entire field.  

“We’re grateful to the sponsors, and all the competitors who make a huge effort to be here.”

The Central Machine Hire Otago Rally will see crews tackle 16 timed special stages over a distance of 280 kilometres.

The event is grateful for the support of Dunedin City’s Premier Event fund.

Back to top