Hawkeswood’s title brings a smile

By David Thomson on Sat, 2 Dec 2017

With Brendan Hartley forced to start from the back of the grid in Abu Dabhi, and Scott McLaughlin denied the V8 Supercar crown after a final race tangle, it was left to the ultimate round of the national rally championship to give me some motorsport pleasure last weekend.

For those who follow the sport, that round - the two-day Rally New Zealand - was won by Hayden Paddon, while third-placed Andrew Hawkeswood secured the points he needed to win this year's national championship crown.It was Hawkeswood's title win - earned with his long-time co-driver Jeff Cress alongside - that gave me my motorsport smiles.

With a motorsport career that spans more than two decades, Hawkeswood was competing before some of his 2017 national rally championship rivals were born.

As far as I can recall, his first national rally win came in Southland, back in 2004. Since then he's always been at the sharp end of the field, rallying with a hard-charging, win-or-bust driving-style that has made him as popular with panelbeaters as the fans.

Out of the car, Hawkeswood is laidback with a huge enthusiasm for motorsport. He's always been a delight to interview, although he can spin an even better yarn when the journalist's notebook is nowhere in sight.

And not only has Hawkeswood pursued motorsport for pleasure, it has been integral to his working life: one of his companies, Force Motorsport, has lead the way with the production of the new AP4 class of rally kits cars that are becoming increasingly prominent in the sport.

As an added bonus, while he's really an Aucklander, Hawkeswood was officially an Otago entrant in the national rally scene for a couple of years, as he ran a goldmining operation out of Alexandra. So, to my mind, he's an honorary local.

On to last weekend's championship finale, where Hawkeswood needed a strong finish, not an outright win, to secure the national crown.

Driving tactically for points was, by his own admission, one the hardest things he has had to do in the sport. From what I understand, that's going to be it for Hawkeswood as a championship contender on the Kiwi scene. Next year he's planning on contesting off-road and regular rally events in North America instead.

Those plans to compete offshore in 2018 were in place before the outcome of last weekend's championship finale was known. What a great bonus it is then, for him to finish 2017 as this country's national champion.

It's an honour that is hard- won and thoroughly deserved.

David Thomson