Posted Friday, April 12, 2024 at 9:46pm


It’s sometimes easy to overlook the backbone of the Central Machine Hire Otago Rally when you’re staring at Kris Meeke in that Escort. Or Brandon Semenuk in a Subaru Impreza H6. But there is – as always – so much more to this week than a couple of rallying rockstars who’ve made the trip south.

In terms of New Zealand rallying, this weekend represents a land of opportunity. There’s very much a feeling of the cat being away and the mice collectively coming out to play. Hayden Paddon’s on the wrong continent – the Hyundai NZ driver is starting the defense of his European Rally Championship title in Hungary this week.

The defense of last year’s latest home success commences in Timaru at next month’s Rally South Canterbury. Ari Pettigrew was Paddon’s closest challenger in Otago last year (admittedly more than four minutes behind the one-time Rally Argentina winner), but he’s swapped a Holden Barina AP4 for an Escort in the Classic event.