The date for next year’s International Rally of Whangarei has been confirmed as 2 to 4 July, with the event again based in the city of Whangarei
The event is a round of the prestigious and hotly-contested FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) and will be the second international motor rally to utilise the scenic gravel roads around the Whangarei and Kaipara districts within a ten-week period during early winter.
The International Rally of Whangarei is run by the organisers of Rally New Zealand, the event of the same name which is a round of the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Rally New Zealand uses a small selection of Whangarei and Kaipara roads for the first day of the three-day rally in early May, then the Whangarei-based event in July utilises virtually all different roads for the competitive stages.
“Both events bring a large international presence to the region,” says organising committee chairman Willard Martin.
“As a WRC event, Rally New Zealand showcases the world’s elite rally competitors, and the International Rally of Whangarei is part of the next level of world rallying as a round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship. It attracts millions of television viewers all around the world in its own right,” says Martin.
“We have constructed each rally so they use different roads, except for the Hella Bridge at Swamp Road Maungaturoto as it’s such an iconic New Zealand rally stage. There will be a couple of new stages for July’s Whangarei event – to the north-west of Whangarei – but it is still nice and compact.”
The event showcases Whangarei, Northland and Kaipara in a unique way, adds Martin, and continues to receive considerable support from Whangarei District Council, Kaipara District Council, the charitable Maungaturoto Co-operative and other community groups and residents.
The councils facilitate a number of key aspects of the event and community groups assist with the provision of safety marshals and other volunteers to help run the event. “In return, the rally ensures the proceeds of half of all spectator ticket sales are returned directly to the communities.”
Acknowledging the economic boost the region receives, Jude Thompson, Whangarei District Council’s chief operating officer, says the event’s timing is particularly relevant.
“Certainly the economic benefit which has flowed from the rally coming here is really significant,” says Thompson. “Particularly that it’s held during the off-peak tourism season when we don’t see big numbers of people. It’s a great and exciting event that brings new money in to the Whangarei and Kaipara districts, including the regional areas serviced by the likes of the Maungaturoto Co-operative.”
An event regarded highly within global rallying circles, the International Rally of Whangarei is not only the third APRC round in 2010, it’s one of the Pacific Cup rounds within the APRC (the other events are Rally Queensland and Rally New Caledonia), which draws additional attention from international rally media. The event also gains considerable attention within New Zealand, also being a round of the 2010 New Zealand Rally Championship.
“Events such as these offer a particularly valuable way for the region and New Zealand as a whole to get in front of customers in the wider Asian markets for trade and tourism with the exposure it gets in the media,” notes Martin.
With the event’s headquarters again at Whangarei’s Quayside Town Basin, this is the fourth consecutive year the region has hosted the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA)-sanctioned championship rally.
“Kiwi drivers dominate the winners’ list,” adds Martin. “The success of our local drivers against the best drivers in the Asia Pacific region indicates the level of competition in New Zealand is very high. The cars are all identical specification-wise between the local rally series and the international championship so it’s a great chance to compare our drivers against the international talent.”
The 2009 International Rally of Whangarei was won by Geraldine’s Hayden Paddon who has gone on to win the New Zealand Rally Championship title for the second time and the Asia Pacific leg of the Pirelli Star Driver contest which earns him the right to compete in six rounds of next year’s FIA World Rally Championship. Paddon expects to be back to defend his Whangarei title, taking on teams from Australia, Indonesia, Japan, India, New Caledonia, and New Zealand.