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Mon, 21 Jan 2019 - Subaru NZ gifts WRX STI to rally driver Ben Hunt 

Subaru brand ambassador Ben Hunt is now the official owner of the purpose-built Subaru WRX STI rally car.

Subaru of New Zealand gifted ownership to him after three years in this production-based model.

Subaru have been sponsoring Hunt since the end of 2013. In recognition of his rallying talents, he was taken on as a brand ambassador in 2015. The company offered him the use of a brand-new production model Subaru WRX STI, which he had converted to a rally car.

His Hunt Motorsports team, alongside Speedhub Motorsport, spent countless hours transforming the Subaru WRX STI into a rally-fit machine. Now, three years later as part of the agreement, Subaru is handing over its keys.

Subaru of New Zealand Managing Director Wallis Dumper says it was a well-deserved transaction.

“Ben has been a brilliant ambassador for Subaru throughout the past three seasons with us. It is not an easy task to transform a road-going car into a competitive, rally winner but Ben and his team have done just that - achieving some outstanding results in the Subaru WRX STI along the way.”

“We were thrilled to see Ben finish second in the 2018 New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC), behind WRC driver Hayden Paddon. While in 2017, Ben and his long-term co-driver Tony Rawstorn helped Subaru win the NZRC’s Manufacturer’s Trophy, finishing as the third team overall in the process. Their continued success keeps Subaru’s rally heritage alive and we are happy to now be officially handing the keys over to Ben,” Mr Dumper says.

Hunt was thrilled to formally take possession of his Subaru WRX STI.

“It was great to head into the Subaru of New Zealand office and be presented with the keys to this awesome Subaru in front of the whole team. It was a proud moment, as it felt like a celebration of all the hard work, myself, Tony and our Hunt Motorsports team have put into running this double, national championship podium-achieving Subaru.”

“Ever since I was a kid, my rallying heroes were Subaru drivers Colin McRae and Possum Bourne, and it is amazing to be now competing with the Subaru brand, which is truly where my heart is,” Hunt adds.

He will continue as a Subaru brand ambassador this year and will campaign the Subaru WRX STI in this year’s six-round NZRC. Hunt will be looking to repeat his 2015 win, which he achieved in an older model Subaru WRX.

Hunt has an impressive rally career history, which was jump-started in 2009, when he won the inaugural Rally New Zealand Rising Stars scholarship. He followed that achievement up with two national 2WD titles and a junior championship trophy in 2011 and 2012.

Stepping up to an All-Wheel Drive vehicle in 2013, Hunt purchased the ex-Emma Gilmour Subaru WRX and finished fourth in the NZRC. The next year he moved up to second overall.

“I’ve been rallying Subarus for six years now and have had many rally wins and podiums in them. Tony and I look forward to doing our best to put the Subaru WRX STI back on the NZRC’s winner’s trophy next year,” Hunt says.

Sun, 6 Jan 2019 - Winmax signs on for 2019 Otago Classic Rally

Winmax Brakes and Paddon Rallysport have signed on as the naming rights sponsor for the 2019 Otago Classic Rally.

The new partnership is great news for the rally, and also coincides with Hayden Paddon's announcement that he will contest the 2019 Otago Rally in his Hyundai i20 AP4+.

"We're delighted to welcome Winmax Brakes and Paddon Rallysport to the family of supporters for the Otago Rally," event spokesman, Roger Oakley, said.

"Winmax are the first choice for many competitors at all levels of the sport and we are proud to be associated with such a quality brand.

"Having Hayden competing at Otago is exciting for everyone involved," he added.

"He brings world-class action for the spectators, and a benchmark for the competitors.

Hayden is a wonderful ambassador of the sport, and does a huge amount to promote it." Paddon's return to the Otago Rally will ensure spectator numbers are at record levels for the April event.

"The Otago Rally is my favourite event," Paddon says.

"I love the smooth, fast roads, and the enthusiasm that Dunedin has for the event.

The camaraderie of the NZ rally community is a special thing to be part of."

Norwegian Mads Ostberg will head the entry list for the Winmax Brakes by Paddon Rallysport Otago Classic Rally, driving a Ford Escort RS1800.

The 2019 Winmax Brakes by Paddon Rallysport Otago Classic Rally will run over the weekend of April 13 and 14, with two-days of fast-paced rally action following a publicity start in Dunedin's Octagon on Friday evening, April 12.

The rally is also round one of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, and the opening round of the 2019 Asia Pacific Rally Championship.

The 2019 Otago Rally receives Major Events funding from Dunedin City Council, and is supported by the Otago Community Trust. For more details on the rally, visit www.otagorally.com

Fri, 21 Dec 2018 - The iconic International Rally of Whangarei returns for 2019

The 2019 International Rally of Whangarei is shaping up to be a great international event.

The 2019 event will include a re-invigorated Clubmans event (ROW), a new classic 2wd class run to the Otago Classic rules and changes to the FIA APRC event, to cater to all teams and spectators. The recent changes to the APRC for 2019 (reg’s released soon) provide our NZ crews a huge opportunity to do the first two rounds of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship and qualify for the final in India, the shootout for the crown of 2019 Asia Pacific Rally Champion.

The 2019 event will kick off on Thursday 2nd / Friday 3rd May with the traditional two pass recce. Then the teams head to the amazing Te Matau a Pohe Bridge (Pohe Island) for the Ceremonial Start, which is then followed by the new and improved Super Special stage. This year the Whangarei District Council have approved a very exciting facelift of the SSS, with addition of a jump and some adjustments to the stage layout to add more spectacle in front of the Te Matau a Pohe Bridge for spectators, it should make for exciting viewing.

Saturday will see the crews tackle the demanding stages north of Whangarei, while Sunday will be based on the WRC roads to the south of Whangarei. The ceremonial finish for the IROW will be held in Whangarei’s town basin on Sunday afternoon, and a new format will be in place for the ROW finish. Headquarters will be at the newly re-named Northland Events Centre, Okara Drive, with the service park just down the road on the corner of Okara Drive and Port Road.

With superstar Irish Driver Frank Kelly confirmed for both the Otago Rally in April, and the Rally of Whangarei, it is set to be an exciting event for all involved.

IROW and ROW organisers are working on the finer details for release in the new year but have confirmed the event outline with the support of the Whangarei District Council and Far North District Council.

Keep an eye out for more information in the new year about this iconic event, entry deals and some of the exciting overseas entries coming to Whangarei.

Mon, 17 Dec 2018 - Big plans for 25th anniversary Targa event and year

It’s been a big year for New Zealand marathon motorsport event organiser the Ultimate Rally Group (URG). But you won’t find company CEO and Targa/Silver Fern Rally Event Director Peter Martin taking a break any time soon.

Martin has just announced the dates and basic details for his two big 2019 Targa events and is also well-advanced on plans for the next (biennial) NZ Silver Fern Rally in 2020.

“It’s just the name of the game,” Martin said on Monday. “We’re getting more and more interest in our events from overseas and – particularly for a pre-eminent marathon one like the Silver Fern these guys plan their programmes two and sometimes even three years out. “It’s important, too, with our two Targa products, that people here know in advance when they are and where they start and finish. Hence our decision to lock in our dates as early as we could for 2019.

Martin plans to celebrate 2019 – and the 25th annual Targa New Zealand event – in style, with a number of initiatives aimed at seeing the entry top the 200 mark.

The year starts with a three-day Rotorua-Havelock North – provisionally named ‘Targa Rotorua/Hawke’s Bay’ event – in May. Documentation will be held in Rotorua on Thursday May 16 followed by three full days of competition covering over 480kms of closed special stages and 700km of touring from Friday May 17 to Sunday May 19.

This, in effect, will be the taster for the full five-day 25th anniversary Targa New Zealand event from Taupo to Palmerston North (“basically, says Martin, “It’s a ’best of’ event through the heart of the North Island”) between Tuesday October 29 and Saturday November 02 2019.

As part of the 25th anniversary celebrations there will be a special Legends Dinner in Taupo on the eve of the event (Labour Day Monday October 28) as well as a gala prize-giving function in Palmerston North on Saturday November 02 timed so that everyone can watch the World Cup rugby final live from Yokohama, Japan, due to start at 10.00pm that night.

Having successfully run a new Time Trial event-within-the-event in association with the Vintage Car Club of NZ as part of the 2018 Targa New Zealand event in the South Island, Martin is now opening up that option to all comers in both 2019 events.

“Everyone involved loved the Time Trial we ran this year so we have decided to open up the concept for both our events this year. We will still, obviously, be working with the Vintage Car Club of NZ so that those with older cars can join in the fun, but we are also welcoming anyone who likes the specific challenge of driving to an average speed, rather than flat-out,”

Though they get to run over the same closed roads as the competition and Targa Tour cars, the nature of a Time Trial means speeds will be much lower, so those entering can do so in any car, new, old or in-between, as long as it is registered and has a current Warrant of Fitness.

That means a lot less compliance cost, opening the event up to more people, something which Martin says is key to its long-term viability.

“We hear it all the time when we talk to people about our events. So many tell us that they would love to do Targa…if they had a suitable car, or if they could get time off work, or if they could somehow see what one was like before committing themselves to buying or building a car!

“This way they can! As long as they have a car with a Reg and WoF all they need now is the entry fee, a co-driver and – in the case or our new Rotorua/Hawke’s Bay event - a couple of days’ annual leave. If that isn’t an incentive to finally turn their dream of doing the event into reality I don’t know what is?”

Targa New Zealand events are organised by the Ultimate Rally Group with the support of sponsors AndrewSimms.co.nz, Chicane Racewear, Global Security, HW Richardson Group, Invercargill Licensing Trust, NZ Classic Car magazine, Race Brakes, Race4Life Trust, Racetech, TeamTalk, TrackIt, and Writeraze.

Fri, 14 Dec 2018 - Hyundai Motorsport fine-tunes its WRC line-up for 2019
Hyundai Motorsport has announced that Spaniard Dani Sordo and Frenchman Sébastien Loeb will compete for the team in the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC)
Nine-time WRC champion Loeb has signed a two-year contract that will see him contest six rounds of the 2019 season in a Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC alongside co-driver Daniel Elena
Sordo will remain a Hyundai Motorsport driver for the sixth consecutive season, joining co-driver Carlos del Barrio for eight events.

Alzenau, Germany

December 13, 2018 – Hyundai Motorsport has confirmed that Dani Sordo and Sébastien Loeb will join its 2019 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) campaign, representing a strong signal of intent from the Alzenau-based team.

As part of a two-year contract, nine-time champion Loeb will compete in six rounds of the 2019 season in a Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC alongside long-time co-driver Daniel Elena, starting with Rallye Monte-Carlo in January.

The Frenchman registered his 79th WRC victory in spectacular fashion at Rally de España in October, his first since 2013. He will get his first taste of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC prior to Rallye Monte-Carlo, the opening round of the 2019 WRC season.

For Sordo, a one-year contract extension to run eight events into 2019 will mark his sixth consecutive season with Hyundai Motorsport. The Spaniard, alongside co-driver Carlos del Barrio, scored five top-five results in seven starts in 2018, including two podium finishes. Their precise programme for next season is still to be defined but will commence at Rally México in March.

Loeb and Sordo, who were previously WRC team-mates for four seasons from 2007-2010, will join Thierry Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen on the team’s driver roster for 2019. Hyundai Motorsport also has an open dialogue with Hayden Paddon to discuss options for his involvement with the team into next year.

Sébastien Loeb said: “I am delighted to announce that Daniel and I will compete in six WRC events for Hyundai Motorsport in 2019, beginning with Rallye Monte-Carlo. Winning at Rally de España this season re-ignited my desire to continue competing at the very front of WRC. Joining Hyundai will give us a fresh challenge and one that I can’t wait to tackle. I have been impressed with the team’s approach and their determination to succeed. They were firmly in the title fight this season and I feel that I can bring a lot to them, together with Thierry, Andreas and Dani. The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC is a proven rally winner, and as a crew we know can still be up there with the best, so 2019 promises to be an exciting season!”

Dani Sordo said: “Hyundai Motorsport has really become a special team to me, so I am pleased to remain part of the WRC line-up. We have built some good memories over the years, and, alongside Carlos, I felt that 2018 was one of my most competitive seasons. We know that when things work in our favour we can really be strong contenders. It is important for us to learn from the difficult moments and come back stronger – that’s the aim for 2019. We have an exciting crew line-up with Sébastien coming on board. He brings an immeasurable amount of experience which will be a huge benefit to the entire team as we move forward.”

Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “Sébastien’s announcement is hugely important for Hyundai Motorsport, and we’re overjoyed that he has agreed a two-year contract. Sealing a deal with someone of his immense talent and calibre shows that we are an attractive and competitive proposition in the FIA World Rally Championship. Ultimately, our goal is to win the WRC title. We believe we have the package to achieve that, and our composition of crews for 2019 will perfectly reflect that ambition. We are also happy to retain the services of Dani for another year, extending a positive working relationship that dates back to 2014. With Thierry and Andreas already on the books for next season, we have an exciting mix of personalities and a complementary line-up. We are also still in talks with Hayden to see how we can work together into 2019. He is a great talent and a tremendous ambassador for Hyundai NZ, leading various motorsport projects.”
Sat, 8 Dec 2018 - Fans get their wish, as Østberg to return

Rally fans have got their wish, with World Rally Championship star, Mads Østberg, confirmed as the international guest at next year’s Otago Classic Rally.

For the second year running, Østberg will drive a Rossendale Rally Team Ford Escort RS1800 as he attempts to win the coveted event for the first time.

The Norwegian has just completed a hugely successful season for the factory Citroen Racing squad in the WRC.

Despite only a limited program, 31-year old Østberg outperformed his team-mates to finish as the team’s leading point-scorer for the season.

His year culminated with a brilliant third place at the season-ending Rally Australia in November.

“I really enjoyed my experience last year, competing on the fantastic New Zealand roads,” Østberg said.

“I have unfinished business, and I’m looking forward to again meeting the friends I made in 2018.”

Østberg retired from this year’s Otago Rally with driveline failure in the Escort.

“We’re delighted to welcome Mads back again,” Otago Rally spokesman, Roger Oakley, said.

“He is a wonderful ambassador of the sport and someone who clearly just loves competing, and meeting the fans and the other competitors.”

His entry comes after recent news that Irishman Frank Kelly will return in his famous ‘Baby Blue’ Escort, while popular rally commentator, Colin Clark, will also attend the event for the first time.

New Zealand’s own WRC star, Hayden Paddon, is also expected to contest the event once again.

The 2019 Dunedin Isuzu Otago Rally will run over the weekend of April 13 and 14, with two-days of fast-paced rally action following a publicity start in Dunedin's Octagon on Friday evening, April 12.

It is also round one of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship.

The 2019 Otago Rally receives Major Events funding from Dunedin City Council, and is supported by the Otago Community Trust.

For more details on the rally, visit www.otagorally.com

Sun, 2 Dec 2018 - Emphatic Silver Fern Rally win completes 'unfinished business' for Robinson and Collis

Winning this year’s NZ Silver Fern Rally – and doing so in such emphatic style – was like completing unfinished business for top British Historic rally driver Matthew Robinson and co-driver Sam Collis.

The pair crossed the official finish line of the eight-day 3,571km marathon from Hamilton to Rotorua this afternoon (Sat Dec 01) just over four minutes ahead of fellow Ford Escort Mk2 pair Roger Chilman and Max Freeman with a third British par, Roger Tysoe and co-driver Paul Morris, locking out the podium for Ford in third place,

Robinson and Collis started the last Silver Fern Rally (held in the South Island in 2016) in a freshly-built Fiat 131R replica. When it was going they had the pace of eventual Historic category winner Meirion Evans and co-driver Lestyn Williams in a Mk2 Ford Escort. But the unsorted car lacked the reliability of all the Escorts in the event. So this time around Robinson decided that if he couldn’t beat the Ford hordes he would join them.

:It’s such a long way to come for an event and for something to go wrong,” he said.” So after the last one I decided that if I was to come back and do another it would be in car that was going to get me to the end.”

He was not alone this year, either, as nine of the first 10 cars home were Escorts, the exception the Porsche 911 of local son/father combination Brad and Stuart McFarlane in sixth place,

First Kiwi crew home, meanwhile, was Brent Rawstron and Ian McKee in the first locally-built and prepared Mk 2 Ford Escort in fourth place, while Mike Goldsbury and Dan Wallis (Toyota Corolla DX) managed to successfully hold on to the lead of their class, winning the Challenge section by just over a minute from Dave Strong and Rob Scott in Strong’s late model Honda Civic Type R.

Brent Taylor and Dave Neill (Toyota GT86) were again the quickest through all but one of the stages on the final day. However they could only close but not completely bridge the time gap to Goldsbury and Wallis in first and Strong And Scott in second thanks to engine issues costing then time early in the event and two off-road excursions doing the same later on.

Sat, 1 Dec 2018 - Tysoe hangs on to final podium spot on the way to Rotorua finish line

A late event charge on Thursday saw UK historic marathon rally specialist Roger Tysoe and co-driver Paul Morris wrest the final podium spot in this year’s NZ Silver Fern Rally off Kiwi pair Brent Rawstron and Ian McKee on.

But any hope Tysoe had of further closing the gap on event leader Matthew Robinson and co-driver Sam Collis, and multiple Thursday stage winner Roger Chilman and his co-driver Max Freeman who are currently running first and second were – if not dashed, at least put on hold until tomorrow – through the final stage today, the 29.98 km Mangapoike Rd high in the misty Ureweras, south-west of Gisborne.

Before the lunchtime service in Wairoa, Tysoe and Morris were comfortably third quickest through the stages. By the first stage after the lunch stop, the marathon 44.64km one through Ruapapa Road, they slipped to fifth, losing just over half a minute to stage winner Matthew Robinson. Then through the final 29.98km s of Mangapoike Rd, they slipped back to ninth place, losing just over a minute to a fired up Chilman, who won the stage from young Kiwi gun Brad McFarlane and Dad Stuart McFarlane in their repaired Porsche 911, and German-born Kiwi Peter Scharmach and his co-driver David Jasko (Ford Escort Mk 2).

Even Matthew Robinson lost time to Chilman through the stage (21 seconds) but the upshot of it was that it was Scharmach – out of the overall running but back in the event anyway – who finished third behind day winner Chilman and day runner-up (by just 6.3 seconds) Robinson , with Tysoe back in fourth for the day and slipping further back behind the leading pair, rather than closing the gap.

Chilman again won the day, but Robinson conceded less than 10 seconds over 139km of Special Stages and heads into tomorrow’s final 178km Special Stage/295km Touring in-between with a buffer of over eight-and-a-half minutes over Chilman and almost 13 minutes over Tysoe and Morris.

Brent Taylor and his co-driver Dave Neill (Toyota GT86) continued, meanwhile, to set the pace in the Challenge class, winning four of the five stages today.

Because of issues earlier in the event however, they are running third overall, and despite taking a good two minutes out of long-time event leader Mike Goldsbury and his co-driver Dan Wallis and second-placed Dave Strong and Rob Scott, he and Neill are still over a quarter-of-an-hour in arrears with just six stages to go tomorrow.

From parc ferme in Gisborne overnight tonight, tomorrow sees a final run to the finish line in Rotorua via six stages including a 45 km marathon final through the famous Motu Road.