Battle of Jacks Ridge

Major Driver Announcement – Emma Gilmour

Leading New Zealand Rally Championship contender Emma Gilmour will line-up for the Battle of Jacks Ridge in November with her Suzuki.

The NZRC event winner will make the trek north from her Dunedin base to take part in the City of Auckland Rally on November 14 before tackling the purpose-built Jacks Ridge stage a day later along with a stellar field where she should be right in the mix.

Former national champion Andrew Hawkeswood constructed the world class stage on his property in Whitford with the World Rally Championship returning with Rally New Zealand in 2020. The stage was going to be a focal point of that event in September but the COVID-19 outbreak forced its cancellation.

When the Battle of Jacks Ridge was announced, Gilmour immediately knew she had to be part of it.

“Andrew took me for a drive around it when it was still in the finishing stages when they were working towards having it done for Rally New Zealand and it just blew me away,” she said.

“I sort of thought it was a rally sprint track in someone’s back yard but it is amazing. It is a quarter of a rally stage. It has everything in it and a lot of thought has gone into it.

“The elevation changes and the jumps and the blind brows – I think it is going to be a wonderful spectacle.

Gilmour has competed in WRC events when they stopped in New Zealand previously and has high expectations that the Battle of Jacks Ridge will be run with that kind of feel to it.

“I think it is pretty exciting to have an event that is going to have the feeling of a bigger international event yet being local,” she said.

“After such an unusual year I think it is going to be great to compete and hopefully have a big crowd there.
“It reminds you of what the WRC would have been or what it has been in the past.”

Gilmour has endured a torrid run over the past couple of seasons as mechanical failures have plagued her Suzuki but a stack of work has been put in during the past few months and she hopes to showcase her speed and be battling at the pointy end of the field.

“I dug deep – it is still what I love to do and I knew I still have the potential so I drew on all my reserves of resilience and invested in the car,” Gilmour explained. “We have upgraded the engine package, and we were ready to go for this season.

“Obviously COVID has happened so we have basically parked it up ready to rally.”

The Battle of Jacks Ridge will be broadcast live on Sky Sport and will see the best drivers in the country taking part in a knock-out style format.

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Battle of Jacks Ridge

Major Driver Announcement – Kingsley Jones

Papakura’s Kingsley Jones is the latest leading New Zealand Rally Championship contender to commit to November’s Battle of Jacks Ridge in Auckland.

Former national champion Andrew Hawkeswood built the stage on his Whitford property to initially be the centrepiece of the World Rally Championship Rally New Zealand event that had been set to run in September, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

While the full stage is over 6km long the Battle of Jacks Ridge takes place on just half that with high speed cambered gravel roads, spectacular jumps and technical corners set to test drivers.

Jones will see the event as a bit of a local rally given his close proximity to the Whitford farm where the Battle of Jacks Ridge will take place and is chomping at the bit to get his Skoda Fabian R5 out to take on his rivals.

“Being an Auckland rally, which are few and far between, it is good to get out and do something that is local,” he said. “The advantage is that you get to bring the family out and have the kids there.

“Traditionally Coromandel was the closest we came to Auckland, which wasn’t too bad for mates to shoot down but it is still an hour and a half’s drive and a night’s accommodation whereas being Auckland based makes it a lot more open for friends and family and sponsors and things like that.

“The South Island has a really strong rally community with events on their backdoor and so that really helps them out.

“I think the event is absolutely amazing – it is going to be good for spectators to watch and we will try and put on a show really.”

Jones was a big improver last season as he got more familiar with his Skoda through the course of the year. By the final round at Waitomo, he managed a podium by finishing runner-up to Raana Horan.

While he doesn’t expect to win the Battle of Jacks Ridge, he does hope to make it to the final runs.

“I’m not there to flap around – I am going to try my best,” Jones insisted.

“I think if I can make the top eight I would be extremely happy. We are running it in full rally trim.

“If I can be in or around Ben [Hunt], Jack [Hawkeswood] and Dylan [Turner] I will be pretty happy.”

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

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Battle of Jacks Ridge

Major Driver Announcement – Ian Ffitch

New Zealand’s top rally drivers will have a custom-built quad bike piloted by renowned rider Ian Ffitch nipping at their heels at November’s Battle of Jacks Ridge.

While World Rally Championship star Hayden Paddon, event host Jack Hawkeswood and reigning New Zealand Rally champion Ben Hunt loom as obvious contenders at the November 15 event in Auckland, Ffitch could well be a dark horse on his hill climb special.

“It is called the BRM1000 that was created way back in 2003 for Race to the Sky,” Ffitch explained. “It is powered by V6R1000 road bike engine.

“Ninety percent of it is custom-built around that engine. It started off as an original 500CC two-stroke frame that we grafted the engine into.

“It is something that was specifically built for Race to the Sky and I have been fortunate to do a few other hill climbs in it over the years like Ashley Forest, the Leadfoot Festival and Hayden Paddon’s Ben Nevis Station event earlier in the year.”

Like most competitors the purpose-built Jacks Ridge stage will be something of a mystery to begin with. The stage has been constructed on 2017 NZRC champion Andrew Hawkeswood’s farm in Whitford, 20 minutes from downtown Auckland.

It contains 6km of gravel special stage designed to host the WRC Rally of New Zealand before COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the event.

The Battle of Jacks Ridge will use 3km of that stage and will feature some technical corners, some high-commitment jumps and brilliant spectator viewing – not that Ffitch knows anything about it.

“I know nothing. I know zero. I don’t know anything about it,” he admitted.

“It is exciting. I have dealt with Andrew as far as competing against him at hill climbs and Race to the Sky and Leadfoot and stuff. When I heard it was Andrew putting it together I figured he would know what would be good and spectacular so I am excited by the thought of it.”

Ffitch impressed with a top 10 finish at Paddon’s Ben Nevis Golden 1200 near Cromwell earlier in the year but he hasn’t been able to ride the bike again since.

“It just isn’t suited to any other form of racing,” he said. “Any time I can get it out is great

“I would be stoked if I made the top four and I would be gutted if I didn’t make the top eight. Not knowing the competition and how many specialist vehicles are in it I would be disappointed if I couldn’t make the top eight.

“If you make that top eight – everything from there is the next step.

“It depends how fast the stage is too of course but the competitor in me means I wouldn’t be happy with anything less than a top eight finish.”

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Battle of Jacks Ridge

Major Driver Announcement – Ben Hunt

Defending national rally champion Ben Hunt will contest the Battle of Jacks Ridge in November in his Subaru WRX.

The two-time national champion was nearly untouchable during the 2019 season – winning five of the six rounds and leading the sixth event by a large margin before mechanical trouble ended his bid for a perfect season.

He will look to carry that form into a battle with World Rally Championship star Hayden Paddon and the who’s who of New Zealand rallying in what promises to be an epic showdown on the purpose-built stage in Whitford on Sunday November 15.

Constructed on 2017 national champion Andrew Hawkeswood’s farm, the Jacks Ridge stage was designed to test the very best. It mixes typical New Zealand gravel roads with undulating rolling farmland that will provide a test for the drivers, a thrilling watch for spectators and a beautiful Auckland City backdrop all within 20 minutes of the CBD.

“Andrew has wrecked everyone else’s roads around the place over the years so it would be worthwhile going up there and having a play on his,” Hunt laughed.

“I haven’t been up there for a while, but I did have a look a few months ago in one of Andrew’s old utes. It is an awesome bit of farmland and a cool bit of road so it will be awesome to get the chance to go for a skid through there in a rally car.”

While Hunt is likely to feature at the pointy end of the field, he is hosing down talk that he will be one to beat.

“The Subaru is more designed for rally and in my career, I can count on one hand how many rally sprints or hill climbs I have done so it is not something that normally draws my attention.

“With the who’s who of New Zealand motorsport coming and a fun weekend it should be a good event.

“The Subaru will be competitive but maybe not the one to beat.”
More leading figures are likely to be announced in the coming days.

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Battle of Jacks Ridge

Major Driver Announcement – Jack Hawkeswood

The event and location are named in his honour but Jack Hawkeswood is playing down talk he will be the man to beat at the Battle of Jacks Ridge in November.

Jack’s father – 2017 national rally champion Andrew Hawkeswood – and his wife named the Whitford farm after their son Jack and have developed a world class special stage on farmland in the middle of the Auckland region and within minutes of the CBD.

It was set to house the World Rally Championship when it returned to New Zealand for the first time since 2012 but COVID-19 forced that event to be cancelled.

That gave birth to the idea of the Battle of Jacks Ridge, which will see competitors use 3km of the 6km-long stage in rally sprint format on Sunday November 15.

Aside from a couple of media days the stage hasn’t been used so most competitors will be arriving at the event having to get to know the layout.

That has prompted many to label Jack Hawkeswood as the driver to beat because he will know the circuit better than most.

“The only areas I have really driven on are the bits we’ve used for the media days,” Hawkeswood said. “I haven’t actually done a full lap of the rally stage let alone the rally sprint stage.

“I will definitely be doing bits of it but it is really going to come down to how far we get actually finishing off the track and I will do a few laps of it so we can make sure the track is going to work alright.

“I don’t think I will have too much of an advantage over anyone else.”

Jack Hawekswood
Photo copyright Geoff Ridder

The Hawkeswoods bought the property about seven or eight years ago and immediately had the idea of constructing a rally stage on it.

“At our old farm we had a speedway track around the back paddock,” Jack explained. “It has always been a dream of the old man’s – to have a purpose built stage right there.

“If you want to go testing in your rally car you have to go all the way down to Maramarua because there is nothing really around here.

“It was something he really wanted to do.

“it was solely designed around spectators. It is the sort of place where you can be there all day and not miss out on any action.

“Another big factor is we didn’t want to make it a big highway. We wanted to make a stage that had real consequences for drivers.”

And while Jack has committed to entering the event father Andrew has yet to confirm whether he will be driving as well although it seems impossible to think he could withstand the badgering from his son for the next couple of months without committing to taking on his son.

“It would be rude if he didn’t come out really, Jack laughed.

“I would say he would be trying to put tacks in front of my car or he might hit it with a spanner or something before the start of the stage or something.

“It would be awesome to have the old man come out. We have a good rivalry going on there.”

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

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Battle of Jacks Ridge

Major Driver Announcement – Hayden Paddon

New Zealand’s leading rally driver Hayden Paddon is the first entry into the November 15 Battle of Jacks Ridge rally sprint.
The World Rally Championship star has confirmed his participation in the event, which will be broadcast live on Sky Sport and is likely to attract the strongest field ever assembled for a domestic rally.

The 33-year-old, who became the first Kiwi and first driver from the southern hemisphere to win a world championship event in Argentina in 2016, will tackle the 3km-long rally sprint stage at the purpose built Jacks Ridge facility on former national champion Andrew Hawkeswood’s property in his Hyundai i20 AP4.

The full 6km-long Jacks Ridge stage, located 20 minutes from the Auckland CBD in Whitford, was set to be a feature of Rally New Zealand 2020 when the WRC returned for the first time since 2012 before COVID-19 forced the event’s cancellation.

With spectacular spectator viewing, a challenging but exciting layout and the backdrop of Auckland City and the Hauraki Gulf the Jacks Ridge stage needed to be used elsewhere and hence the idea of the Battle of Jacks Ridge came about.

“This is going an amazing event and one I am really looking forward to,” Paddon said. “Andrew has done an amazing job constructing a world class rally stage that will be a real test for drivers while giving spectators an amazing show.

“There are some technical bits that will put drivers to the test while the jumps will take some serious commitment and will be spectacular to watch.”

Paddon will contest the City of Auckland Rally, using stages in the Auckland region that would have made up the WRC event, the day prior before converting his Hyundai into hill climb spec overnight.

“It is such a shame that COVID-19 has disrupted the sport so much and that we weren’t able to hold a WRC Rally New Zealand on those awesome stages,” Paddon said.

“It will be great to be able to drive some of those iconic stages and compete with New Zealand’s best too.

“My team will be working hard converting Hyundai i20 overnight and setting it up for the Battle of Jacks Ridge on the Sunday, where the extra horsepower will be needed.

“It sounds like there will a lot of competition and I can’t wait to get amongst it.”

Other big names have expressed an interest in competing in the event and some more announcements are likely in the coming days.

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Battle of Jacks Ridge

Sky Sport to broadcast inaugural Jacks Ridge rally sprint live

Sky Sport will provide exclusive live coverage of the Battle of Jacks Ridge rally sprint on Sunday November 15 as the sport evolves with a new-generation urban event.

Featuring the best rally drivers in the country and some of the biggest names in New Zealand motorsport, the Battle of Jacks Ridge promises to be the biggest domestic event in New Zealand rally history and it will take place just minutes from downtown Auckland.

The event will see competitors blast around 2km of purpose-built gravel road, featuring high speed jumps, technical corners and close proximity to spectators on former New Zealand champion Andrew Hawkeswood’s Whitford property.

With the Hauraki Gulf, Rangitoto Island and the Auckland City skyline as a backdrop, Jacks Ridge is a spectacular location to watch rally cars compete on a World Rally Championship-calibre power stage, located just 20 minutes from the Auckland CBD.

Sky Sport will broadcast the final runs live during four hours of live coverage that will be unlike anything ever seen on New Zealand soil before.

Greg Murphy will be covering the event in November.

The coverage will be fronted by an all star line up including Sky Speed hosts Stephen McIvor and four-time Bathurst winner Greg Murphy and will feature 16 separate cameras capturing every piece of the action.

Rally New Zealand chairman Peter Johnston is hailing the partnership with Sky Sport as the future of the sport in New Zealand.

“For Sky to broadcast the event this way is a massive coup for the sport,” he said. “From the moment we first spoke to them, Sky has been very supportive and has recognised what we can achieve together.

“The coverage will be world class and will give viewers the closest possible experience to be being there in person.”

Sky Sport presenter and former Supercars star Murphy spent some time in the latter part of his career rally driving and is super keen to be involved in the event.

“I have a massive love of rallying,” Murphy said. “I was so excited about the WRC coming to New Zealand and then so disappointed when COVID-19 prevented that from happening.

“There was so much work that went into securing the WRC by a lot of people.

“I was involved in some conversations around what we could do to give the rally community something that was as close to world championship quality as possible and to make use of this amazing stage.

“So when it was proposed we do the Battle of Jacks Ridge I was only too keen to lend a hand.

“It is going to be an amazing event and I am thrilled that I can play a role via my broadcast duties with Sky Sport and potentially drive in the event as well.”

Hayden Paddon is excited to compete at the Battle of Jacks Ridge in November.

New Zealand’s most successful rally driver Hayden Paddon will be the star attraction and is an ambassador for the event.

“Like everyone I was disappointed that Rally New Zealand was not possible this year but I cannot wait to compete on that world class stage and in front of Kiwi rally fans,” Paddon said.

“Jacks Ridge is a phenomenal rally stage and will make for one heck of an event.

“I’ll be there and I can’t wait to test myself against the best cars and drivers in New Zealand.”

The Battle of Jacks Ridge is already attracting huge interest from New Zealand’s best drivers while leading motorsport figures are also lining up for a crack at the rally sprint.

Find out more by visiting and sign up to the Gravel database to get sent the latest info.

To pre-register for tickets to the Battle of Jacks Ridge, click here.

Dale Budge
Media and Communications Manager
+64 274 939 442

Battle of Jacks Ridge City of Auckland Rally wrc


A handful of local rally drivers got a sneak test of the new purpose-built Jacks Ridge stage in South Auckland earlier this week.

Andrew Hawkeswood’s Mazda AP4 car in action at Jacks Ridge. Photo / Geoff Ridder

Pukekohe’s Dylan Turner (Audi AP4), Papakuras Kingsley Jones (Skoda R5), Cambridge’s Anthony Jones (Millington powered Escort) and Brookby’s Jack Hawkeswood (Mazda AP4) for whom the stage is named after got to drive the new stage on former New Zealand Rally Champion Andrew Hawkeswoods property near Brookby School.

Hawkeswood constructed the 7km-long stage on his property with the thought of using it as a special stage in the World Rally Championships Rally New Zealand, which was set to return in September before Covid-19 forced its postponement.

In conjunction with Rally New Zealand the stage will now be used in November’s City of Auckland Rally a one day event using the roads in Whitford, Riverhead and in the Kaipara region north of Auckland and will then play home to a one-day rally sprint based entirely on the Hawkeswood property the following day.

It will attract the best drivers in New Zealand with WRC star Hayden Paddon committing to taking part in his Hyundai.

Under the eye of Rally New Zealand officials and some special dignitaries the drivers spent a couple hours shaking down the stage on Monday.

After their runs the drivers were noticeably impressed.

It is awesome absolutely awesome, Jones told Counties Sports Hub. It has some really grouse corners and some big commitment jumps, which I’m not quite there yet.

It will take a bit of getting used to but we will try and get some secret testing up here, have a play and see if we can sort that out.

The location offers plenty of undulation; there are tight corners, fast sections and some spectacular jumps that will test the very best drivers out.

Jones acknowledges the drivers that tackle those jumps the best will be the guys to beat.

It is commitment to jumps you have to learn where to place the car, he explained. Depending on how ballsy you are, some people just don’t care and take everything flat but when you are driving a car like this [an imported Skoda Fabia R5]; it is everything I own. It makes it a little harder to get out and do that.

I just need to get it right in my head and I am happy to take 20 goes rather than one to commit.

Spectators will love the location as well it is as close to the Auckland population as is possible and offers spectacular views of the stage as well as the Auckland city and harbour landscape in the background.

The City of Auckland Rally will take place on Saturday November 14 with the Battle of Jacks Ridge set for Sunday November 15.

Battle of Jacks Ridge City of Auckland Rally rallynz wrc

City of Auckland Rally and Battle of Jacks Ridge Announced

Rally New Zealand organisers have today announced two exciting new events, the City of Auckland Rally and the Battle of Jacks Ridge to be staged in November.

The event will comprise the stages that were planned for the World Rally Championship event both north and east of the city.

The City of Auckland Rally will be held on Saturday 14 November and include stages in the Kaipara Hills, Puhoi and Riverhead Forest before its conclusion at the purpose-built road ‘Jacks Ridge’ in Whitford.

The Battle of Jacks Ridge will be a standalone rally sprint on Sunday 15 November which will feature an open category rally sprint over a section of the 6.2km Jacks Ridge stage.

“Clearly we had planned to spotlight these stages at the FIA World Rally Championship event in September” said Rally New Zealand Chairman, Peter Johnston.

“We were so pleased with the route that was coming together for Rally New Zealand, and now we want to share the Auckland-based stages with rally drivers and our fans.  

“There are some incredible rally stages north and west of the city which are fan-friendly and on Auckland’s door step.”

The jewel in the crown is Jacks Ridge, which has been purpose-built by well-known rally driver Andrew Hawkeswood. It is planned to be used as the power stage for Rally New Zealand.

‘Jacks Ridge is unlike anything seen before in the history of New Zealand rallying.  The stage is exciting and highly technical,  incredibly spectator friendly and is easily accessible for fans.’

It’s something that’s been bubbling away for a little while, but the World Rally Championship returning was the perfect motivation to make it happen. Building Jack?s Ridge was all about using the lay of the land to create a stage that drivers would love combined with safe and prime spectating opportunities,’ said Hawkeswood.

The two events that follow on from the recent cancellation of Rally New Zealand from the 2020 World Rally Championship calendar, with organisers remaining optimistic that these iconic roads will feature in the 2021 WRC schedule.

‘We are taking this opportunity to shakedown Jacks Ridge and the stages around Auckland to showcase our preparedness for hosting the 2021 WRC event’ said Johnston.

‘The FIA and WRC Promoter are aware that we have invested significantly into the return of Rally New Zealand.

‘We believe when fans get the chance to check out Jacks Ridge, they will get a sense of the excitement and magnitude of hosting the World Rally Championship which we hope will be included on the 2021 calendar.’

For more information see and or contact Merran Brockie-David.

Merran Brockie-David
Rally New Zealand
+64 21 2725596

rallynz wrc

Rally New Zealand look towards the future after WRC event cancelled

Rally New Zealand organisers today confirmed that the 2020 FIA World Rally Championship event in and around Auckland in September has been cancelled due to the ongoing challenges with the Covid-19 pandemic. 

With three months until the planned return of the WRC event, but with the New Zealand borders remaining closed to international visitors for the foreseeable future, the organisers had reached their final deadline.

‘It became clear that with our borders closed to international travel and the logistics required to host thousands of international visitors as part of the World Rally Championship, that the September 2020 date was not practical,’ said Rally New Zealand 2020 CEO, Michael Goldstein.

‘Over the last twelve months our team have done a huge amount of work to be ready to host a WRC event.

‘We are disappointed to not host the World Rally Championship in 2020 but at the same time the issues around the world put this into context.’

While WRC Promoter and FIA are yet to finalise their 2021 calendar, Rally New Zealand organisers are optimistic that the country’s iconic roads will be a feature of the WRC schedule. Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) Steve Armitage – General Manager Destination  said while Auckland will miss out on the opportunity to host the WRC in September, the prospect of a potential 2021 event is exciting.

‘ATEED understands and supports the decision to cancel the 2020 event given the current global travel restrictions and uncertainty of when borders will reopen. While we appreciate this will disappoint many motorsport fans, there are clearly a range of practical issues that cannot be resolved in time for the event to proceed as scheduled. Of course, we welcome the opportunity to work with the promoter and the FIA in the future to explore the possibility of this iconic event returning to our shores in 2021’ Mr Armitage said.

FIA Rally Director Yves Matton said: ‘We were all excited to see New Zealand reclaim its place in the FIA World Rally Championship in 2020 after a seven year absence and we are naturally sad that we will not be able to go there this year.

‘The event has a strong  WRC heritage and I’m sure the drivers would have loved to be back on its iconic stages or discover them for the first time. Motorsport New Zealand and the organising team have done a fantastic work so far and we are already looking ahead to the rally taking place in the near future.’

For information contact:
Ian Hepenstall
Media Manager
Rally New Zealand 2020
T: +64 275 613181