Monday, April 22, 2024

Rally stars revving up again

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Former New Zealand rally champion Andrew Hawkeswood will once again host the Repco Battle of Jacks Ridge motorsport event at his family’s farm. Times photo Wayne Martin

Some of the biggest names in Kiwi motorsport are set to return to rural east Auckland for a high-octane event in front of thousands of fans.

The Repco Battle of Jacks Ridge rallying competition made its exciting debut on a purpose-built 2km track at former national rally champion Andrew Hawkeswood’s family property in Whitford in November last year.

The track was designed to be used during the 2020 World Rally Championship Rally New Zealand which was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

V8 Supercars champion and Kiwi motorsport ace Shane van Gisbergen overcame a star-studded field including World Rally Championship driver Hayden Paddon to capture the Battle of Jacks Ridge inaugural title in front of about 5000 spectators.

Competitors blasted around a purpose-built gravel road at the property featuring high speed jumps, sharp corners and close proximity to spectators for maximum noise and drama.

This year’s version will be held at the same site on November 13-14.

Van Gisbergen piloted a Ralliart New Zealand Mitsubishi Mirage AP4 rally car to victory last year.

He beat driver Phil Campbell in the head-to-head final and says he’s returning to defend the title.

“It was an awesome experience last year and I had a blast,” van Gisbergen says.

“The field will be super competitive and I’ll have my work cut out again in 2021 but I’m really looking forward to it.”

Paddon set the early pace in last year’s contest, including a record time on one run, before making a small mistake that saw him clip a bank and roll his car.

The Hyundai driver has also confirmed he will return to take on van Gisbergen again.

The inaugural event was a big success and its organisers did a great job, Paddon says.

“Unfortunately we didn’t get it quite right, so I’m determined to come back and have another go.

“I know there’s huge interest from some really good drivers so I expect a tough challenge.

“The layout was great, the fans were awesome and I can’t wait to get out there and put on a show for everyone.”

Last year’s contest was broadcast live on Sky Sport and will be again.

The competition is backed by Auckland Council’s economic and cultural agency Auckland Unlimited.

Its head of major and business events Richard Clarke says the Battle of Jacks Ridge is an example of Kiwi ingenuity born from the challenges of 2020.

The organisation is “thrilled” to support it, he says.

“We see a bright future for this event to attract even more internationals to this purpose-built rally venue along with motorsport-hungry fans to Auckland for some of the best viewing on offer.”

Among the other drivers to compete last year were V8 Supercars legend Greg Murphy, current national rally champion Ben Hunt, rally veteran Joe McAndrew, and Andrew Hawkeswood’s son Jack Hawkeswood, who finished third last year and for whom the event is named.

Tickets to this year’s Repco Battle of Jacks Ridge go on sale on August 15.

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