Hawkeswood gets title after smart driving

Hayden Paddon.
Hayden Paddon.
It could be assumed that first-time New Zealand Rally Champion Andrew Hawkeswood had earned himself a sleep-in after celebrating his victory following Rally New Zealand on Sunday.

However, the Aucklander's alarm still went off in the vicinity of 5am yesterday and he headed off to his car-building business, satisfied in the knowledge that after 22 years of competitive driving and seven serious attempts to lift this title, he had finally pulled it off.

Well known for his crowd-pleasing, all-out driving style, Hawkeswood said it was actually harder to rein it in. Piloting a Mazda 2 AP4, he and co-driver Jeff Cress went into the final round of six with a 10-point buffer over Auckland-based Subaru driver Ben Hunt. Rangiora brother and sister team Matt and Nicole Summerfield were only one point behind Hunt and, with the competition so tight, Hawkeswood was determined not to blow it.

''It's easier to drive like an idiot and do big skids everywhere but to drive smarter was really, really hard,''he said, with a laugh.

Summerfield's Subaru Impreza STi shared a similar fate to many of the Tauranga-based event's cars, puncturing twice due to the hot, abrasive nature of the first day's stages.

A last-ditch effort to win his maiden championship was scuttled when a blown head gasket on Sunday meant he had to nurse the car through the morning and finished 10 points down on Hawkeswood.

Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawstorn took home third place overall after suffering a nearly unheard of three punctures on the second pass of the iconic 29km Whaanga Coast stage on Saturday.

Kiwi World Rally Championship driver Hayden Paddon took a dominant event victory, with a winning margin of 7min 28.7sec.

He and co-driver John Kennard claimed a clean sweep of stage wins across the 14 tests in Paddon's New Zealand-based Hyundai i20.

Dunedin's Emma Gilmour did not end the season the way she would have liked to, after a likely fifth place finish was ruined when her Suzuki Swift AP4 ''randomly stopped'' on the final stage, Gilmour said.

After initially being unable to restart the car she and co-driver Anthony McLoughlin traced the fault back to a popped circuit breaker.

They were able to fix it and complete the stage but had lost more than 10min.

The 2WD championship, contested between the NZRC 2WD and open 2WD classes, came down to a winner-takes-all shootout that was won by Waiuku's Dylan Thomson and Amy Hudson in a Ford Fiesta ST150.

The Historic Rally Challenge was wrapped up by Christchurch's Tony Gosling and Blair Read driving a Ford Escort RS1800.

The 2018 New Zealand Rally Championship begins with the Dunedin-based Rally of Otago on April 14-15.

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