Rally New Zealand organising committee members say the 40th running of the event was one of the very best ever run
Chris Carr, Rally New Zealand’s chairman, says he continued to field congratulatory calls and comments for several weeks after the World Rally Championship event wrapped up at Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour.
“From a sporting point of view, you couldn’t have scripted that finish better if you’d tried. BP Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala was the right man in the right place to take the rally victory. It went down to the third-to-last corner of the very last competitive stage when the until-then dominant Citroens of Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier faltered, with Latvala perfectly placed for his third WRC win,” says Carr.
“It was an absolute delight to see how many people came out to watch the event and how much media coverage the event received locally and internationally. In addition, we were rapt to see how well received new initiatives like the day of motorsport action Hampton Downs and returning to the Auckland Domain for a super special stage were. It all came together in one fantastic event which really reflected the true spirit and passion New Zealanders have for top level rallying.”
Carr says organisers’ best estimates of spectator numbers indicate around 95,000 people went out to watch at least one aspect of this year’s Rally New Zealand.
“The crowd in Auckland Domain on the Friday evening was phenomenal. A good 25,000 people were there enjoying the action as world’s best drivers blasted through the night-time special stage on roads right in central Auckland. The Auckland Museum was a real showcase for Auckland, looking absolutely fantastic with its new lights."
Saturday’s two super special stages ran at the new Hampton Down motorsport complex midway between Auckland and Hamilton, complemented by a variety of other races, displays and activities, and drew a crowd of around 15,000 fans. Other event venues – the service park on Auckland’s waterfront Queens Wharf, the start and finish ceremonies in Viaduct Harbour and the three days of special stages throughout the Whangarei, Kaipara, Franklin, North Waikato and Raglan districts – attracted approximately 55,000 people over the whole event.
“The crowd figure of 95,000 makes this Rally New Zealand one of the most successful and popular events in recent years. This level of demonstrable fan support is even more pleasing considering the current economic climate which, although improving, is still a challenging environment in which to secure commercial sponsorship,” says Carr.
The organising committee received much positive feedback from teams regarding the event’s efficient running and challenging competitive rally stages, comments Rally New Zealand’s clerk of the course Willard Martin.
“Many favourable comments have been made about the rally route and how our personnel managed vital elements such as the timing control points and spectator viewing points,” says Martin.
Martin acknowledges some significant factors which took place before Rally New Zealand created considerable media awareness of the fate of New Zealand’s, and the Southern Hemisphere’s longest-running world championship event.
“The on-again, off-again news about Rally New Zealand’s place on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar highlighted to Kiwi rally fans the different commercial and sporting factors which are taken into consideration by the FIA and North One Sport for an event’s inclusion on the WRC calendar,” says Martin.
“Then the volcanic ash clouds cancelling flights all over Europe caused concern to some – not us – that our event may be impacted.
“The net effect was increased awareness of the whole event, which coincided with the event’s move to be closer to the larger population base around Auckland. The considerable promotional efforts from our team, Auckland City Council’s major events team and SKYCITY Auckland also helped create one of the highest profile events we’ve seen for some time. We also had tremendous support from the New Zealand International Grand Prix (NZIGP) organisation whose members put together the fantastic and very popular day of motorsport action at Hampton Downs.”
Coverage in print, radio, online and television media was extensive, with Carr, Martin and Rally New Zealand’s general manager Paul Mallard being interviewed on virtually an hourly basis in the few days leading up to and during the event. Interviews with many local and international competitors, pre-event activities like the WRC drivers bungy-jumping off Auckland Harbour Bridge and the rally results generated hundreds of media reports.
Carr says Rally New Zealand remains a reserve event for the 2011 FIA World Rally Championship calendar. “While the logistics of proposed dates for Rally New Zealand being right at the time of the Rugby World Cup here mean that it’s unlikely Rally New Zealand will get a slot in 2011, we continue to talk with WRC promoters North One Sport regarding a workable date on the 2012 calendar."