It would be very fitting if veteran Kiwi rally driver Andrew Hawkeswood claimed a maiden New Zealand Rally Championship over the weekend.

Hawkeswood, 2015 champ Ben Hunt and Canterbury's Matt Summerfield are in a three-way fight for the title at the season finale Rally New Zealand based out of Tauranga this weekend.

While Hunt and Summerfield would be deserving champions Hawkeswood is the feel good story. He has been an honest toiler in the sport over two decades and has never won a title before. He also played a major role in the sport's renaissance over the past couple of years with the introduction of the AP4 car.

The Auckland-based driver owns Force Motorsport, who has helped construct the majority of the AP4 cars in the NZRC field.


With more time being focused on the business Hawkeswood admits this is his best shot at grabbing that elusive title.

"I am pretty much at the end of my career now or coming close to it so I need to get it out of the way," he told The Herald.

"I have got a lot of other things I would like to achieve motorsport-wise."

Hawkeswood takes a narrow 10 point lead into Rally New Zealand. Hunt is his nearest rival but Summerfield finds himself just one point further adrift. Hawkeswood can't afford to take it easy but he also needs to balance getting to the end with outright pace.

"I have hardly put a mark on the car all year so I will just keep doing what I'm doing and driving well within my limits," he said. "When push comes to shove I can push on.
"If I need to drive like an idiot I will."

The outcome of this weekend could well determine whether Hawkeswood returns to the championship next year.

"What I hate is not being able to give it 100 percent," he said. "There are so many things that come into it. I don't want to turn up and just be a field-filler. I want to know that I have a good shot of winning. With the business and a few other things in that side of life it is hard to be a weekend warrior.

"If I don't win it I am pretty sure I will be back next year. If we do win it I will definitely reevaluate."

Hawkeswood, who was the first to build a new-style AP4 car, takes great pleasure out of knowing he played such an important role in there being a three-horse fight this season.

"I am really proud that you can turn up to any rally and there are at least six people that can win it. For too long it was a one or two horse race.

"You have a weight limit and turbo restrictor size - it is a pretty good thing to turn up at scrutineering knowing that. Back in the Group A and Group N days you might have won on the road but it was trying to get through the next two hours after the event arguing about the length of this or that and I just hated that.

"In 2005 I built a Group N car after they had banned the Group A cars in 2004. I drove it down to the round-a-bout at Brookby and turned around and went back to the workshop and said no - I'm not going to spend more money to go slower.

"About 2010 I got asked to come up with some ideas and that is when we said let anything go and see what comes out of the woodwork. Emma Gilmour to her credit was the first one to get the Maxi car out of Argentina and we went along with that. I think we have done 17 cars now. A few of them are out of the country and one was destroyed. I think there are about 10 cars this weekend."

The plan for the future is to specialise in building Mazda's like British outfit M-Sport has done with Ford's.

"There have been a few cars that have proven to be unreliable so we want to really concentrate on the Mazda's just like M-Sport does of the R5 Fiesta. If we had built 260 of the AP4 Mazda's I think they would be a pretty good package by now. We have built four or five of them so we are just starting to get on top of them.

"I have three more in the shop at the moment. One of them will go to the States but the others will be here.

"There are a couple of people looking."