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Battle of Jacks Ridge

Major Driver Announcement – Darren Kelly

Drift king Darren Kelly has committed to entering the Battle of Jacks Ridge on November 15 and is not there to make up numbers.

The D1NZ champion will pilot one of WRC star Hayden Paddon’s cross karts at the purpose-built WRC-calibre power stage in Auckland and take on the best rally drivers in the country in what is fast becoming one of the biggest spectacles of motorsport the country has seen.

But Kelly isn’t just turning up to have a go; he wants to mix it with the best.

“Everything we try to do we do to the most competitive level – it is the natural instinct of any racer,” Kelly said.

“I definitely have the goal of trying to mix it up with the best guys out there.

“It doesn’t matter whether you have a huge amount of experience or not we are always trying to think of how we can perform the best and go out and have as much fun as possible and do as well as we can.”

While his prowess on tarmac is well-documented Kelly has long harboured a desire to compete in other forms of motorsport and the COVID-19-disrupted 2020 has created additional space on his calendar that normally would not be there.

“It seems to have been quite the year for different disciplines in motorsport,” Kelly said. “I am really excited to get behind the wheel of something new.

“It is something I have wanted to do for quite some time – some off road or dirt style driving.

“I remember seeing one of these cars at the Leadfoot Festival and thinking at the time that it looks a lot of fun and how I would like to get behind the wheel of one so it is quite cool to be able to make that happen.”

While clearly one of the world’s premier drift competitors, Kelly has never competed on any loose surface events before although he has some experience driving on gravel.

“I did when I was growing up,” he explained. “I had mainly just fun level off road go karts and things. My dad lived on a 500-acre farm, so we were always tearing around on off road go karts or quad bikes and that sort of stuff.

“I have a bit of experience on dirt but not so much in something as wild as one of these things.

“I still ride as much as I can on a 250CC Kawasaki bike – limited to what I can do there with commitments to other motorsport.”

While he’s yet to visit Jacks Ridge, Kelly has been a keen observer on the footage of drivers getting a taste of the stage.

“I have seen a lot of the footage and just the build process in terms of what they’ve been doing. It looks really cool. I saw some footage from last week and it looks pretty intense.”

The Battle of Jacks Ridge will be broadcast live on Sky Sport. Tickets are available via Ticket Fairy.

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Major Driver Announcement: Matt Summerfield

The talented Matt Summerfield will carry recent form into November’s Battle of Jacks Ridge after confirming his participation.

The Cantabrian will be one of the drivers to watch in his Mitsubishi Mirage AP4 after taking a commanding victory at the weekend’s Spring Rally in South Canterbury.

Summerfield, who was named one of the 25 greatest drivers in the history of the New Zealand Rally Championship earlier this year, is still in the early part of his career but he has showcased the talent to be a national champion at some point in the future.

“We have got good momentum at the moment so having that going into Jacks Ridge is a definite plus,” Summerfield said. “It is going to be quite a different event but even going in being more familiar with the car will be a big help.”

Summerfield dominated the South Canterbury event last weekend as he cruised to a comfortable victory.

“Yea really happy with how it went,” he said. “We just went about driving our own rally. It is sort of hard to tell if we had much of an advantage without the dust out front but we made the most of where we were on the road and swept a lot of gravel.

“It was good to have a good consistent day with no dramas really.”

Summerfield is yet to visit Jacks Ridge and has only got a picture in his mind from what he’s seen on screen from media days and feels it will take him a little time to adjust.

“Just seen some pictures and a bit of video – it looks like there are quite a few jumps and more like a BMX track than a rally stage so it will be interesting,” he said nervously.

“I haven’t done a lot of jumping so I am going to have to take some time and ask the pros how that is done.

“It will take me a few runs to get there. After doing all the Ashley Forest stuff you get used to looking where there is time to be made or not.”

Summerfield will contest the City of Auckland Rally on November 14 as well and will use that event to help springboard him into a title tilt in the national championship next year.

The Battle of Jacks Ridge will be broadcast live on Sky Sport on November 15. Tickets can be purchased here through Ticket Fairy.

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Major Driver Announcement: Ben Thomasen

Former off-road star and national championship contender Ben Thomasen is the latest driver to commit to competing in the Battle of Jacks Ridge on November 15.

His fellow national championship contender and good mate Phil Campbell got an initiation of the purpose-built stage on former NZRC champ Andrew Hawkeswood’s Auckland property last week at a media day.

The feedback was enough to convince Thomasen to confirm his entry.

“I don’t know a lot – just what I have been seeing online really,” Thomasen said. “I know that is a Hawkeswood property and he made some pretty cool roads for the WRC that was supposed to be. 

“My mate Phil was up there last week and said it was pretty challenging and very cresty so I am pretty excited to be going there.”

Thomasen came agonisingly close to winning the Gull Rally Challenge 4WD title in the national championship last year, getting pipped on the final stage of the final event to miss out by the smallest margin.

Like everyone else COVID-19 has disrupted his plans but the up-and-coming star is looking to get back into his ascent to the top echelon of the sport by taking on the Battle of Jacks Ridge.

“I really was keen to do the next year and get up to speed with pace notes and then if I was in a good space, maybe upgrade the car and have a crack at cat one,” Thomasen said.

“That was my plan but to tell the truth rallying hasn’t been at the forefront of my life lately.

“If everything is going OK financially next year maybe we will have another go with the current car and keep gaining experience.”

In the meantime, the understated Subaru driver could be someone worth keeping an eye on come November 15.

He is aiming for a top 10 finish at the Battle of Jacks Ridge.

“I have always preferred and seem to do alright at hill climbs or events that aren’t on pace notes,” Thomasen said. “So I will take my restrictor out and let it hang out.”

The Battle of Jacks Ridge will be televised live on Sky Sport. Tickets can be purchased via Ticket Fairy.

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Battle of Jacks Ridge

Tickets on sale now for the Repco Battle of Jacks Ridge

Click here to buy tickets for the Repco Battle of Jacks Ridge!

New Zealand’s largest auto parts and car accessories retailer Repco has come onboard as the naming rights sponsor of the Repco Battle of Jacks Ridge in November.

With over 90 stores nationwide and nearly a century of history behind it, the brand has been a long-time supporter of Kiwi motorsport events across all formats.

Repco has been a previous naming rights sponsor of Rally New Zealand and has recently announced a new deal to sponsor the Supercars Championship in Australia as well as the iconic Bathurst 1000.

“Repco has been proudly associated with rally on New Zealand’s epic gravel roads for many years including the Race to the Sky and the Repco Westland Rally,” Executive General Manager of Repco, Jonathon Maddren said. 

“The fantastic new track at Jacks Ridge is going to be a spectator’s dream so we’re really excited to be involved. 

“The Repco Battle of Jacks Ridge is set to be an event every motorsport fan is going to love and with this field of drivers the Battle is on!” 

Rally New Zealand chairman Peter Johnston said the partnership was a natural fit.

“Repco have been tremendous supporters of motorsport in New Zealand for a very long time and were quick to jump at the opportunity to partner with us for this exciting event.

“We really think this is going to be a rally sprint that will take the sport to new levels and we look forward to sharing that journey with our friends at Repco.”

Meanwhile tickets for the Repco Battle of Jacks Ridge go on sale on Sunday night, starting as low as $30. 

With a star-studded field already confirmed and a whole day of entertainment there is great value to be had whether you are GA ticket holder, watching the action from Jacks VIP Bar or a guest in the Hospitality Village.

Numbers are limited and are expected to sell fast so fans are encouraged to secure their spot without delay. There is a likely chance that the event will sell out.

The Jacks Ridge WRC Power-Stage has been built around the natural landscape of former national champion Andrew Hawkeswood’s Whitford property, utilising the undulations, ridges and valleys of the Whitford private property in which it sits. 

It has been described as “amazing to drive” by the few drivers that have been privileged to sample the course while the view for the fans is simply mind-blowing.  

The Repco Battle of Jacks Ridge will be broadcast live on Sky Sport.

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Battle of Jacks Ridge

Major Driver Announcement – Phil Campbell

Bay of Plenty-based New Zealand rally star Phil Campbell has booked his entry into the Battle of Jacks Ridge and will bring his Ford Fiesta AP4 car to tackle the 3km stage.

Campbell has been one of the leading drivers on the domestic scene the past few seasons and went within a whisker of claiming a memorable national championship victory at Rally Waitomo last year before disaster struck on the final stage and he crashed out while leading.

His Roofing Store Ford Fiesta has been getting quicker and quicker and he heads to the purpose-built Jacks Ridge stage – on former national champion Andrew Hawkeswood’s Auckland property – ready to announce himself as a competition heavyweight.

“I think we would have to go there with the main aim of winning the rally class overall,” Campbell said. “Our car will still have the restrictor in it and full rally trim so if we could be up near the pointy end of rally cars I will be happy.”

Like most competitors Campbell has only seen Jacks Ridge from videos posted on social media and he is yet to see the layout in the flesh.

The rally sprint will use 3km of the 6km-long Jacks Ridge stage that features cambered gravel roads, technical corners and spectacular jumps.

“I have seen all sorts of bits pop up on Facebook over the last month or so and it looks like a lot of fun up there,” Campbell said.

“It is pretty cool that Andrew has made that commitment to build us that road that is awesome and I am pretty excited to have a drive of it.”

Campbell is a fan of rally sprints and being able to fine tune the car and his driving with the more runs he gets at the same piece of road.

“We have done quite a few rally sprints and hill climbs at club level over the years so it is cool to go on the same bit of road over and over again. 

“You can really get some speed out of the car and so it will be exciting to see just how hard you can actually push the car – it is obviously a bit different to normal rallies with pace notes so we will see what we can do.”

The Battle of Jacks Ridge will be broadcast live on Sky Sport on Sunday November 15.

Sign up to the free Gravel newsletter via the pop up on rallynewzealand.com to keep up-to-date with information and announcements and receive early bird ticket discounts.

Click here to pre-register for tickets and be in to win!

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Battle of Jacks Ridge

Major Driver Announcement – Shane van Gisbergen

Kiwi Supercars star Shane van Gisbergen has committed to entering the Battle of Jacks Ridge in November and will take on the best rally drivers in the country at their own game.

The 2016 Supercars champion has been one of the most successful drivers of the past decade and is renowned for his unique ability to drive any kind of car on any kind of event competitively.

While circuit racing is clearly the 31-year-old’s forte, Van Gisbergen started out in speedway, motocross and karts while he’s enjoyed plenty of success drifting in recent years.

His father Robert was a well-known and talented rally driver and Shane has often expressed an interest in competing on gravel.

With the unique situation COVID-19 has forced upon the sport, Van Gisbergen will be able to return to New Zealand after this year’s Bathurst 1000 race, quarantine for 14 days before tackling the Battle of Jacks Ridge.

“It is pretty cool and something I grew up with,” Van Gisbergen said. “I remember playing in the mud at Dad’s rallies and at rally sprints and stuff and always watching and loving it.

“It was something I never really got the chance to do when I was young – I did a lot of gymkhana and sprints and stuff but never really did a proper rally so it is pretty exciting that our season finishes early so I can come to New Zealand and do some cool events.

“It was a shame Rally New Zealand didn’t happen for all these reasons going on in the world at the moment but the alternative we have got in the City of Auckland Rally and Battle of Jacks Ridge is pretty special and I am looking forward to getting there.”

The Red Bull Holden racer grew up just down the road from the purpose-built Jacks Ridge stage on 2017 national champion Andrew Hawkeswood’s Whitford property.

He has yet to see the exact layout but knows the countryside well having learned to drive on father Robert’s farm a couple of kilometres away.

“I have run past it and run past the quarry where he is developing it but I haven’t been there,” the 31-year-old said. 

“I have seen what has come out in the media the last few months – it looks pretty awesome.

“There are some good jumps and cool corners and I think it will be a good show for spectators with some great spots to watch.”

The opportunity to go rallying is something Van Gisbergen has long pondered. While the stars have aligned to allow him to take part in this event, he admits there is a temptation to do more rallying in the coming years.

“I have no expectations on how it is going to go but for sure when the helmet comes on and I’m at the start line I will have a good go at it,” Van Gisbergen said.

“At the same time I will stick within my limits – it is a bit different to anything I have ever done.

“At least you get a few goes at it to learn the track limits.

“For sure I would love to keep doing it. I am sure I will enjoy it and we will see if anything comes of it.

“I just want to go there and have some fun and have a play around back at home.

“It is something we have tried to do for a few years – I’ve had a few tests in AP4 cars and things like that.

“Hopefully I can do some more in the future but this will be a good start point.”

The Battle of Jacks Ridge on Sunday November 15 is attracting a phenomenal field of drivers and the event will be broadcast live on Sky Sport.

With technical corners, full commitment jumps and stunning spectator viewing, the Battle of Jacks Ridge promises to be the best domestic rally event ever staged in New Zealand.

Sign up to the free Gravel newsletter via the pop up on rallynewzealand.com to keep up-to-date with information and announcements and receive early bird ticket discounts.

Click here to pre-register for tickets and be in to win!

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Battle of Jacks Ridge

Major Driver Announcement – Haydn Mackenzie

Targa New Zealand winner Hadyn Mackenzie will compete at November’s Battle of Jacks Ridge in Auckland as he looks to transition to full-time rally driving.

The Aucklander has been renowned more for his circuit racing exploits until now but will make a fulltime switch to gravel and will tackle the purpose-built Jacks Ridge rally sprint and City of Auckland Rally.

Former national rally champion Andrew Hawkeswood constructed the stage on his Whitford farm initially to use as a key piece of the Rally New Zealand World Rally Championship event that had been set down for September before COVID-19 interrupted.

With the Battle of Jacks Ridge created as a pseudo-replacement this year, Mackenzie jumped at the opportunity to bring his car out to play and take on the biggest rally names in the country.

“I am pretty new to rallying,” Mackenzie said. “I was looking forward to doing the WRC event like everyone else but my goal is to complete the whole NZRC next year so this is a good stepping stone.

“I think it will be cool to go up against all the top guys and see where you come out.

“I am about seven or eight events in now on gravel and definitely finding it a bit more challenging learning just how much grip there is on gravel – there is a surprising amount of grip – but it is just learning how far you can push it or how late you can brake.

“It is going to take me a bit of time and I am quite happy with how I am sitting so far given how little time I’ve had behind the wheel of a gravel car.”

The Jacks Ridge stage has been created to test the best rally drivers in the world while also providing the best possible spectating and Mackenzie is excited by the small amount of what he’s seen.

“I haven’t seen it in person. I watched all the press days when Jack [Hawkeswood] and others have been on the track – from what I have seen it looks to be a bit of fun.”

Mackenzie dominated the Targa field in his Mitsubishi EVO X but will use a different car for the one-day City of Auckland Rally on Saturday November 14.

He is considering whether to use the same car for the Battle of Jacks Ridge or whether to set the EVO X up in hill climb spec.

“The EVO IX is a car that was built for Brian Green,” Mackenzie explained. “It went overseas to New Caledonia I think it was. Then it came back into New Zealand. Phil Campbell had the car and then it went to Raana Horan and I bought it from Raana.”

The Battle of Jacks Ridge will be broadcast live on Sky Sport.

Sign up to the free Gravel newsletter via the pop up on rallynewzealand.com to keep up-to-date with information and announcements and receive early bird ticket discounts.

Click here to pre-register for tickets and be in to win!

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Battle of Jacks Ridge

Major Driver Announcement: Michael Pickens

New Zealand’s most famous speedway driver has entered November’s Battle of Jacks Ridge and will take on the best rally drivers in the country over the spectacular 3km-long purpose-built stage in Auckland.

Eight-time national champion Michael Pickens has established himself as the country’s best speedway driver and has enjoyed international success with regular visits to the United States in recent years.

But he will swap the oval circuit for a chance to test himself in a foreign environment as he tackles the stage designed specifically for the World Rally Championship on former national champion Andrew Hawkeswood’s farm in Whitford, Auckland.

The speedway star first showed interest in competing in rallying through a random post on social media, which led to him confirming his entry for the Battle of Jacks Ridge in a cross kart.

“I met Tony Gosling ironically through Hayden Paddon’s Facebook page,” Pickens explained. “I made a smart ass comment asking if anyone would ever be stupid enough to put me in a rally car and Tony got in touch with me and asked me if I was serious.

“I told him I was dead serious and that’s how the conversation started. Tony is making all this happen with the cross kart.”
While obviously very much at home on dirt tracks Pickens admits he has no real experience when it comes to rallying however and he will be an absolute rookie.

“Zero really as far as rally or off-road driving goes. I’m keen to learn and I obviously have a lot of respect for the likes of Paddon and Hawkeswood and co,” he said.

“I am just keen to learn off those guys as quick as I can.
“I don’t know if much of my skill set will naturally transfer over or not. I am going to find out pretty quick.

“It is just another car at the end of the day and another skillset you have to learn.”

And while Pickens has never been to Jacks Ridge before or knows much about what to expect, he is looking forward to media day at the venue next week, where he will look to do as much reconnaissance as possible.

“I have watched a short little clip a few months back but that is all I have seen so far. My first experience will be the media day next week.

“Hopefully I can jump in someone’s car and they can show me what it looks like at speed.”

The Battle of Jacks Ridge takes place Sunday November 15 with live coverage on Sky Sport. Head to www.rallynz.org.nz/ for more and to sign up to the free Gravel newsletter.

Sign up to the free Gravel newsletter via the pop up on rallynewzealand.com to keep up-to-date with information and announcements and receive early bird ticket discounts.

Click here to pre-register for tickets and be in to win!

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Battle of Jacks Ridge

Major Driver Announcement – Robbie Stokes

Young gun Robbie Stokes has committed to competing in November’s Battle of Jacks Ridge and will be one of the competition’s dark horses.

The 24-year old Cantabrian is one of a number of up-and-coming stars of New Zealand rallying and will contest the Auckland-based rally sprint in his Ford Fiesta AP4.

Stokes turned heads in 2019 with some phenomenal drives in a 2WD Ford Fiesta, beating some much more powerful cars and drivers with bigger reputations to underline his potential.

Now with the more powerful 4WD AP4 car beneath him and Stokes will have the weaponry to take it to his rivals.

“I have only seen a little bit of the stage on TV but it looks like a lot of fun to go up there and see how we go against all the top New Zealand drivers, because they will all be there,” Stokes said.
“It will be cool to be a part of that.

“It will be good to get back in the car – it won’t have been since Catlins and we didn’t get too far at Catlins so really looking forward to just driving the car more and getting some miles under the belt.

“I love driving it – it is such a cool machine to be behind the wheel of.”

The stage at Jacks Ridge has been created by former national champion Andrew Hawkeswood on his farm and he has taken care to ensure it challenges drivers while giving spectators the best possible viewing.

The initial plan was for the stage to be a central part of Rally New Zealand in September when the World Rally Championship was set to return to these shores for the first time since 2012. Unfortunately COVID-19 forced its cancellation but the Battle of Jacks Ridge was born as a result.

With high-speed blind crests and beautifully cambered gravel roads drivers will need plenty of commitment to set fast times and Stokes is renowned for his aggressive driving.

“I think we’ll have a look at the jumps before we hit them too fast,” he said cautiously. “But I think you have to go fast to get faster and if you’re not going fast enough, you are going to get left behind.

“I think commitment is a big thing and I do commit but you have to be sure of it though.”

Stokes was set for his first assault on the national championship in 2020 as he made the move to the AP4 Fiesta but once again COVID-19 ruined that.

“It is a major setback but everyone is in the same boat so we can’t get too down about it,” he said philosophically. “We need to keep moving forward and trying to be positive.

“I think the Battle of Jacks Ridge and City of Auckland Rally [held a day earlier] will be a great step for us.”

The Battle of Jacks Ridge will take place on Sunday November 15 with live coverage on Sky Sport.

Sign up to the free Gravel newsletter via the pop up on rallynewzealand.com to keep up-to-date with information and announcements and receive early bird ticket discounts.

Click here to pre-register for tickets and be in to win!

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Battle of Jacks Ridge

Auckland to host NZ’s most environmentally-friendly rallies

Rally New Zealand has attained the two-star level in the FIA Environmental Accreditation Framework which means the City of Auckland Rally and Battle of Jacks Ridge this November will be the most environmentally friendly motorsport events in the country’s history.

The FIA Environmental Accreditation Programme is aimed at helping motor sport stakeholders worldwide to measure and enhance their environmental performance. By introducing clear and consistent environmental management into motorsport, it provides stakeholders with a three-level framework against which to accredit their activities.

Rally New Zealand is committed to improving sustainability across all areas of the business, including running events in an environmentally conscious way

The organisation has an environmental management system in place, with many activities planned for the November events, including a focus on waste minimisation, measuring fuel emissions, and plans underway for a native tree planting project at Jacks Ridge in Whitford.

The November 14-15 weekend of rallying action in and around Auckland is set to be a big hit with fans thanks to the proximity to Auckland, the quality of the field and the spectacular purpose-built super special stage at Jacks Ridge providing high speed and close-up spectating with the Hauraki Gulf and Auckland cityscape as a backdrop.

The City of Auckland Rally will encompass some iconic stages used in previous Rally New Zealand events in and around Auckland before a pass through the Jacks Ridge stage in Whitford to complete the event.

The Battle of Jacks Ridge a day later sees competitors tackle a 2km-long section of Jacks Ridge with a number of spectacular jumps, tight and challenging corners and some high-speed gravel roads. The event will bring out some of New Zealand’s most renowned motorsport personalities and some unique and awesome machinery. Rally New Zealand’s environmental policy and more information can be found on their website www.rallynewzealand.com/sustainability.