Hunt delighted with second
Ben Hunt and his co-driver Tony Rawstorn have finished second in the 2021 New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) in their Subaru WRX STI.
The runner-up result was awarded after organisers cancelled the season’s final round in the Bay of Plenty.
The government’s decision to continue restrictions on regional travel in and out of Auckland meant about one-third of the championship would be affected if the event went ahead as planned on October 17.
The current points standings after four rounds therefore determined the place-getters in each championship category.
Hunt collected 84 points over the season to finish behind former WRC driver Hayden Paddon and in front of R5 drivers Auckland’s Raana Horan and Regan Ross, of Kaikoura, who were tied on 61 points. Ross missed out on third place due to countback rules.
After a tough start to the season when they retired near the end of the opening round in Otago, Hunt and Rawstorn bounced back with two consecutive second places.
A hard-fought fourth at what would become the final round in Hawke’s Bay secured their second placings on the MotorSport NZ Rally Championship’s points tables for drivers and co-drivers.
“This season was obviously shortened, but it would have been up there as one of my best,” says Hunt.
“The Subaru [pictured] ran faultlessly except for the one issue at Otago. Every stage before and after that it’s gone perfectly. Tony did a fantastic job as always and we had a ball.
“Winning the championship in 2019 in my WRX was a highlight, but 2021 was a clean season with no punctures and everything just worked well.
“Big thanks to Paul, Mike and all the boys at Speedhub, who help out between the rallies and the team that flies into the events.
“This year has been different with Emma and I having our baby Isadora as usually I’d be there every time someone was working on the car, but there’s been a few instances where I couldn’t make it.”
There’s the family aspect to Hunt’s team as well and he thanked his mother, mother-in-law and wife Emma for making all the meals to feed the team on-event.
“Everyone helps out to make it run like clockwork, especially dad, who drives the team’s transport truck everywhere. He’s a legend.”
Hunt, pictured below, won his debut championship driving a Impreza WRX in 2015. He then took top honours again in 2019 in the production WRX STI gifted to him by the marque years earlier and built into a rally-charger by his Hunt Motorsport team.
The Auckland-based driver has now finished runner-up three times – 2014, 2018 and 2021 – demonstrating consistent top form.
“It’s been a pleasure to watch Ben, Tony and their team go from strength to strength,” says Wallis Dumper, Subaru of NZ’s managing director.
“As a company, we’ve been proud to have Ben as a brand ambassador and of everything he has achieved over the past five years in his WRX STI.
“He has continued an impressive run of results from Subaru rally drivers dating back to the late, great Possum Bourne, who became our brand’s first NZRC winner in 1991 pedalling a Legacy.”
Bourne went on to rally Subarus successfully across the ditch and notch up eight Australian Rally Championships. Heading further afield, he added three Asia-Pacific Rally Championships to his tally.
Meanwhile, back in New Zealand, a new Subaru hero emerged in the early 1990s with Joe McAndrew charging to NZRC victory in 1993, 1994 and 1996.
From 2001, Subaru reigned supreme on the national rally scene, with the marque’s drivers taking home the winners’ trophies through to 2007.
Bruce Herbert in an Impreza was responsible for the 2001 to 2003 victories before Chris West had his turn in 2004 in an Impreza WRX.
Richard Mason took the crown in 2005 and 2006 before Sam Murray secured the title in 2007. Mason went on to win the NZRC in his distinctive yellow WRX in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
The brand’s performance model most synonymous with rallying continues to evolve with the Subaru Corporation recently unveiling the US model of the all-new 2022 WRZ.
Powered by a 2.4-litre direct-injection Boxer turbo, news around its arrival timings in New Zealand is anticipated by Kiwi enthusiasts.