Rally drivers ready for Battle of Jacks Ridge

Former New Zealand rally champion Andrew Hawkeswood is hosting a major motorsport event at his Whitford property. Times photo Wayne Martin

Bragging rights within the Hawkeswood family will be on the line when some of the country’s top motorsport stars descend on rural east Auckland.

The high-profile Repco Battle of Jacks Ridge rally competition is being hosted at Andrew Hawkeswood’s family property in Whitford on November 15.

It will feature drivers including current New Zealand rally champion Ben Hunt, Hayden Paddon, Shane van Gisbergen, Greg Murphy, and Joe McAndrew, among others.

Hawkeswood, a former national rally champion, is also taking part, as is his son Jack, for whom the property and event are named.

The event will see competitors blast around a purpose-built gravel road at the property that features high speed jumps, sharp corners and close proximity to spectators.

Andrew Hawkeswood plans to take on the circuit behind the wheel of his Mazda 2 rally car, powered by a turbocharged 1800cc engine putting out about 310 horsepower.

The track was initially designed to be used during the 2020 World Rally Championship Rally New Zealand but the event was cancelled in May due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He says the event will be extremely competitive for the drivers and exciting for spectators.

“None of these guys like to get beaten, me especially. They’ll be putting everything on the line.

“These rally sprints are a big pressure cooker to better yourself on every run.”

Hawkeswood is no stranger to motorsport success within New Zealand and overseas.

He’s the 2017 national rally champion, a former New Zealand hill climb champion, the runner-up in the 2019 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship and has competed at the famous Pikes Peak hill climb in the United States.

He had a “five- to eight-year plan” to develop the rally circuit, but when the opportunity came up to host an event this year, he put his foot down.

“The five-to-eight year plan turned into a five-month plan.

“Between December and March we did some pretty serious work in excess of 100-hour weeks for months.”

Rival drivers may think his son Jack Hawkeswood has a home track advantage, but he’s yet to do a full lap.

“I’ll do a few laps of it so we can make sure the track is going to work alright,” Jack Hawkeswood says.

“I don’t think I have too much of an advantage over anyone else.”

Greg Murphy says he “can’t wait to get out and have a go”.

“The road is just amazing. I am in awe of what the Hawkeswood team have managed to do.

“I think our country is incredibly fortunate to have it and have a huge amount of fun and give the fans something to really enjoy.”

Andrew Hawkeswood says he’s expecting the rally will draw a large crowd as many other motorsport events were impacted by Covid-19.

“Everything else has been cancelled as far as motorsport goes. This is shaping up to be the biggest spectator event of the year.”

The Battle of Jacks Ridge starts at 10am on November 15.