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Major Announcement: Rally New Zealand Esport Series, Auckland Presented by MSNZ

Rally New Zealand Esport Series, Auckland Presented by MSNZ

A collaboration between Rally New Zealand, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) and MotorSport New Zealand has given New Zealand its first official Rally New Zealand Esport Series that will be broadcast live on Sky Sport.

A collection of New Zealand’s greatest motorsport personalities will headline the Rally New Zealand Esport Series ahead of Repco Battle of Jacks Ridge, live from NZ’s biggest gaming expo Armageddon.

Rally legend Hayden Paddon is the first to be announced to take part in a celebrity event that is a joint initiative between Rally New Zealand, MotorSport New Zealand and ATEED.

Broadcast live on Sky Sport in the lead-up to the Repco Battle of Jacks Ridge event on November 15 the series features legacy Rally New Zealand Rally stages from the WRC9 Game that would have been featured across the 2020 WRC event. 

Members of the public will be able to enter the competition via broadcast partners and NZ’s premier gaming studio LetsPlay.Live to compete through a qualifying series.

CEO of LetsPlay.Live, Duane Mutu said “LetsPlay.Live has worked with some of the leading racing brands in the world to deliver international sim racing events. We’re excited to partner with Motorsport New Zealand to deliver the first official Rally New Zealand Esport Series.”

Participants have two ways to enter, through the online qualifiers and offline qualifiers at Armageddon. Members of the public will be able to compete in the online qualifiers, by submitting their fastest lap in WRC9, from Monday 12 October to Monday 19 October. 

It’s not over for fans that didn’t make the Top 6 online qualifiers as there are an additional 8 offline spots that can be secured at Armageddon over the 23rd and 24th of October. 

The Top 6 online qualifiers will battle the Top 8 offline qualifiers on October 25 for the semi finals. Don’t worry! Anyone who qualifiers online, will be able to play from the comfort of their own home. 

Separate to semi finals of the series, attendees at Armageddon will be able to have a go and test themselves on virtual versions of Rally New Zealand stages. 

With an incredible celebrity guest lineup and the biggest gaming set-up in the event’s history, the Auckland Armageddon Expo is set to attract more than 60,000 people over Labour Weekend 23-26 October.

Founder and organiser William Geradts said the 25th anniversary show would be every gamers dream, with VR, PC and console gaming, Esports and video game displays.

“Gaming has spiked during lockdown because everyone has been stuck indoors, so we’re really honing in on that. We will have the largest gaming set-up in the country, and we’re so excited to be able to kick off this milestone event in partnership with an iconic gaming brand.”

The winners of the Armageddon semi finals will see them heading to a final showdown held at the LetsPlay.Live Studios at Sky City’s Sky Tower in Auckland on Sunday November 8, also broadcast live on Sky TV. 

“It’s taken a huge amount of work to get this across the line and something the team are quite proud and really excited about it,” Rally New Zealand chairman Peter Johnston said. “This will be broadcast live on Sky to build up for Jacks Ridge and live on Twitch. It is great that these legends of Kiwi motorsport are so keen to be involved and I’m sure rally fans will enjoy being able to test themselves against the world’s best drivers.”

Acting CEO of MotorSport New Zealand Elton Goonan is supporting the event and the esport series as a whole. “As we evolve in this ever-changing world, MotorSport New Zealand has seen esports grow massively in terms of the amount of coverage it has received over the past 6 months and particularly during the COVID lockdown,” Goonan said. 

“Esports has been an area of development for MotorSport New Zealand for 12 months so we are keen to ensure that we have world-class esport champions in both rally and race. The Rally New Zealand Esport Series is the ideal way to get things started as we look to launch our own standalone esport championship.” 

“With a driver of the caliber of Hayden, who has proven himself a capable driver whenever he gets hold of a steering wheel, be it in the real-world or virtual, the Rally New Zealand Esport Series will provide a springboard for esport world drivers to meet the real-world stars and history has shown that many successful drivers have started in the esports world. With the added support of ATEED and WRC, it is a great moment to put a stake in the ground and show that esports is here.”

ATEED Head of Major Events, Richard Clarke, said the collaboration between the two events will bring together a wider audience.

“Esports is popular around the world and clearly a hit with New Zealand’s top drivers as well so this promises to be an entertaining experience for locals and visitors. And there’s a chance for the public to match their skills against each other and our best motorsport talent so we encourage enthusiasts to get involved. Auckland prides itself on offering a vibrant events calendar and this joint effort is shaping up to be one of the highlights,” Clarke said.         

The top seven competitors will be flown to Auckland (if they live outside of Auckland and COVID restrictions allow for travel) and provided accommodation to contest the grand final.

The game will feature vibrant staple WRC9 stages that are iconic to Auckland Tourism.

The City of Auckland Rally, using stages that had been set to feature in Rally New Zealand when the WRC returned to New Zealand this year prior to COVID-19 forcing its cancellation, will run on Saturday November 14.

The Repco Battle of Jack’s Ridge on the purpose-built WRC-style power stage in Whitford, Auckland will then take place on Sunday November 15 with live coverage on Sky Sport. Tickets can be purchased via Ticket Fairy.

More information about registration for both the offline and online events will be announced mid-afternoon Tuesday 6 October on www.letsplay.live and also www.twitter/letsplayliveHQ.  Grab your tickets to get along to Armageddon here!

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Battle of Jacks Ridge

Major Driver Announcement – Carl Ruiterman

Renowned drift star and side by side champ Carl Ruiterman is the latest big-name Kiwi motorsport personality to confirm his entry into November’s Battle of Jacks Ridge.

The Pukekohe-based Ruiterman has been one of the country’s most successful racers over the last decade or more having won the D1NZ championship in 2007. Since then Ruiterman has made the move to offroad racing and in 2018 he claimed the ORANZ Offroad Racing National Championship title.

It will be in a side by side offroad racer that he tackle the purpose-built Jacks Ridge stage on November 15.

“I have always been keen to do rallying or the odd rally type event,” Ruiterman said. “Ever since I got my driver’s licence I loved the idea of driving on gravel.

“I grew up on a gravel road and it is something I have always enjoyed.

“I did Rally Waitomo last year and that was fun.”

Ruiterman’s career began in drifting because it was quite cost-effective to get into back in the early 2000s. But the passion for rallying has always been there and he acknowledges the temptation to do more will always be there.

“This is a way to see how we stack up against other rally drivers without going out and buying a rally an actual rally car,” Ruiterman said.

“We’ll see how it goes at Jacks Ridge and what sort time and budgets look like but I’ve always enjoyed the idea of going rally driving.”

While he is yet to see any vision of the Jacks Ridge, constructed on former national champion Andrew Hawkeswood’s Whitford property, he has heard all about it.

“I know Andrew and I know he has been working on this for some time. It will be good if he’s done it.

“I’ve spoken to the likes of Ben Hunt, who was out there last week, and it sounds exciting with lots of jumps.

“I can’t wait to have a go myself.”

Ruiterman will be one of five offroad competitors at Jacks Ridge.

The Battle of Jacks Ridge will be broadcast live on Sky Sport and tickets can be purchased via Ticket Fairy.

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Battle of Jacks Ridge

Jack calls out father Andrew Hawkeswood

Jack Hawkeswood – the man who Jacks Ridge is named after – has called out his father Andrew to take him on at the Battle of Jacks Ridge in November.

Andrew, the 2017 national champion, has stepped away from driving fulltime in recent seasons to concentrate on his business commitments and also to allow Jack to be primary focus of the Force Motorsport operation.

But after the pair constructed the Jacks Ridge WRC-calibre power stage on their Whitford property, Jack has called on his old man to enter the event.

“I mean he has to enter doesn’t he?” Jack laughed.

“We have a good rivalry going and I think this will be the ultimate test of that competition between us.

“If he does enter he will probably let the air out of my tyres or do something to hinder me so he can come out on top.

“He’ll have his hands full though – I’m ready for him.”

Jack has been tipped by many as the man to beat given his improved speed in 2020 and the fact that he knows the course about as well as anyone.

Hawkeswood senior is tipped to be weighing up whether to enter or not.

Tickets to the Repco Battle of Jacks Ridge are available here

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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!