Whangarei pairing of Ben Jagger and co-driver Ben Hawkins finished their season in the best possible way when on Saturday they were victorious at the one day annual running of Rally of the North
As the field began it's march northwards from rally base Paihia a slow start for Jagger and Hawkins saw them down in seventh after the first special stage but they had clawed their way back to fourth place before the lunchbreak held at Peria School east of Kaitaia.
The afternoon's stages were to move the teams back southward and at the end of the first of the four afternoon's special stages "The Two Bens" had taken the lead from Kerikeri's Kinglsey Thompson where they would remain for the rest of the day.
The pair eventually stormed across the finish line at Crows Nest Rd, Hukerenui winning Rally of the North by one minute 21 seconds over top seeded driver Neil Marshall from New Plymouth who was then followed by Thompson.
"We had a few moments in the rally, we took the back bumper off when we hit a fence which I think everybody hit including the zero car. But winning this rally is just such a great way to end off the season and we knew that going in to this weekend it would be tough because there was a lot of good competition." said Jagger.
Fourth place was held by Stephen Burley with Whangarei's Brendan Oakden taking fifth and sixth place went to another Northlander Carl Adnitt from Te Kopuru.
For Jagger and Hawkins winning their home event was the perfect way to thank the team and supporters for their efforts throughout this year's rally season and show their potential before taking on a new season in the national championship in 2011.
"Getting a result like this has really given us some confidence for going into next year and we'll give the car a good going over in the off season and get it into mint condition - hopefully we can find some more money." he says.
After winning the Group N two wheel drive championship in 2009, Jagger's first year in the SeedForce Subaru Impreza WRX and four wheel drive class has been a mixed bag of fortunes. Finishing the Vantage Aluminium New Zealand Rally Championship in 13th place overall at final round Rally Nelson last month he has shown top level pace at times including finishing Rally Otago in fifth.
"We've had a tough season and we don't want anyone to lose the faith in us so to finish it off like this is just wicked." he says.
Rally of the North is an annual one day event based out of Paihia. This year it consisted of eight special stages taking the field of over 50 drivers from around the North Island up towards Kaitaia with a lunch break at Peria School east of Kaitaia before heading back towards the finish at Crows Nest Rd at Hukerenui. The official finish was at Copthorne Hotel and Resort, Waitangi.
Ben Jagger is the current Rally New Zealand Rising Stars Development Award recipient in the Group N 4WD championship and a graduate of the Elite Motorsport Academy.