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Young star Hawkeswood secures Otago Rally win

Jack Hawkeswood and Jason Farmer have won the Central Machine Hire Otago Rally after a wire-to-wire performance at the top of the leaderboard.

Jack Hawkeswood took his first NZRC rally victory at Otago. Photo: Becky Ladbrook

By winning the rally, the duo also clinched top place in both the Asia-Pacific and New Zealand Rally Championship fields in what is 23-year-old Hawkeswood’s best performance in his young career.

While it is Hawkeswood’s first Otago win, it’s his co-driver Farmer’s second Otago Rally success after his 2017 crown beside David Holder.

In what was a great showing for the future of the sport in New Zealand, the fight at the top was fast all weekend, with little more than 20 seconds separating the top two drivers on any occasion.

Over the first two stages of Sunday, Hawkeswood traded times with Robbie Stokes with the pair entering the first service halt with an identical gap to overnight.

Hawkeswood and second-placed Stokes continued to trade stage times during the day, however, it was the former’s rally, taking his Toyota GR Yaris AP4 to victory.

For Stokes, second place is his best result at the Otago Rally in seven starts and it hands a great start to he and co-driver Sarah Brennan in their national championship quest.

Robbie Stokes jumps his Ford Fiesta AP4. Photo: Peter Whitten

Sunday was a better day for third-placed Ben Hunt. His time was a record on the first stage of the day, Adams Flat, and he was the driver of the day, finishing fastest over the six stages held.

Hunt was also able to win the final stage of the rally, Kuri Bush, in a near-record time. That time also secured him maximum bonus points on the New Zealand Rally Championship’s Power Stage.

Fourth and fifth places were swept up by the consistent Mike Young (Toyota Yaris AP4) and Todd Bawden (Ford Fiesta Rally2).

While both drivers were only running in the Asia-Pacific section of the field, their top five result in the event overall put them amongst the fastest drivers in the event.

Emma Gilmour, like the aforementioned Hunt, also had a better Sunday. The Dunedin driver clawed her way back up into the top four of the NZRC standings and sixth overall, giving her great championship points.

While Hunt and Gilmour moved up in the standings today, others were not so lucky.

Zeal Jones, a young driver in his first event in the top class of car, dropped from sixth to eighth due to mechanical issues.

The Skoda Fabia R5 driver finished the day with front-wheel drive only, meaning he dropped significant time.

APRC competitor Gaurav Gill also couldn’t make it through. The first stage of the day was his downfall when he hit a hole and broke the suspension on his Hyundai.

Australian Stewart Reid, who held tenth overnight, also retired from the rally with power steering failure in his Mitsubishi Mirage AP4.

Andrew Graves took all before him in the Classic 4WD class. Photo: Peter Whitten

Of the two-wheel drive competitors, it was International Classic Rally star Kris Meeke who finished on top and in seventh overall ahead of Deane Buist, while Dylan Thomson was first of such finishers in the NZRC.

Canadian guest driver, Brandon Semenuk, had regained the second place he lost due to a puncture on Saturday, but the Classic 4WD Rally runner rolled on the final Kuri Bush stage, ruining any chance of a fairytale podium. 

Ahead of Semenuk, it was Andrew and Hayden Graves who won the Classic 4WD category in a dominant performance across all 16 special stages.

In the Allcomers, leaders Caleb MacDonald and Larisa Biggar were unchallenged, but dramas for Tim McMillan and Julien Lenglet meant the top five looked much different from what it did after leg one.

Gavin Feast and Daniel Haines finished in second and third behind the winners, with Haines completing as the first two-wheel drive home.

Central Machine Hire Otago Rally | Provisional Results

1. Hawkeswood/Farmer, Toyota GR Yaris AP4, 2hr18m03.2s

2. Stokes/Brennan, Ford Fiesta AP4, +17.8s

4. Hunt/Rawstorn, Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo, +53.1s

5. Young/Hudson, Toyota Yaris AP4, +2m23.3s

6. Bawden/Neill, Ford Fiesta Rally2, +4m48.1s

7. Gilmour/Renshaw, Citroen C3 Rally2, +6m42.8s

8. Meeke/O’Sullivan, Ford Escort RS1800, +7m19.5s

7. Jones/Jones, Skoda Fabia R5, +8m34.8s

9. Graves/Graves, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III, +8m55.0s

10. Buist/Celeste, Ford Escort RS1800, +10m56.8

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