Returning to Whangarei for the seventh consecutive year will be teams and drivers from multiple countries here to contest the International Rally of Whangarei, the opening round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, from 17 to 19 May.
While the drivers compete over roads throughout the Whangarei and Kaipara districts, the event headquarters will again be located in the former harbour board building, a part of the Quayside Town Basin. The harbour side setting will also utilise the adjacent carpark for the service area and serve as the back drop for the Sunday afternoon ceremonial finish.
Drawing teams from countries such as Japan, Sweden, India, Australia, Malaysia and even China the field will be bolstered by a large contingent of local crews competing in both the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship and the Top Half rally series.
Cars include state-of-the-art Skoda Fabia and Proton Satria S2000 specification models as well as production Subaru and Mitsubishi cars. Three new brands will join the field – a new generation Mazda, Peugeot and Suzuki – as part of the NZRC.
Competition over the past six years has been fierce as the Kiwi’s square off against the formidable international line up for event honours. It’s only been the past two years the accolades have gone offshore, with Australian based World Rally Championship driver Chris Atkinson taking the spoils. That rivalry has helped rank the event as the best in the Asia Pacific region.
“There is no doubt teams enjoy the Whangarei event. Cast aside any prejudices on home country advantage the visitors may claim at their own events, the breath-taking scenery is a close second to the quality and style of roads enjoyed in the area. Add to that the cultural buzz of the region and the superb Quayside location – Whangarei is the perfect setting. Feedback from television viewers of the event beamed throughout the world is it paints Whangarei as a must see destination as far as tourism goes. A point that’ often overlooked when it’s part of your own back yard,” says Laurie Brenssell, chairman of the International Rally of Whangarei organising committee.
“That opinion brings a healthy influx of visitors both during the event, following their heroes, and at other times of the year – to see first-hand what puts such a smile on the faces of our competitors.
“Run by Rally of New Zealand, organisers of the World Rally Championship Rally New Zealand event, their expertise ensures it’s run to the highest of standards – and that keeps it ranked as the leading round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship.”
Teams will start to arrive in Whangarei early in the week prior as the cars and crew make preparations that include reconnaissance over the roads on the Thursday.
An event that covers 727.56km of roads to the south and west of Whangarei, activity begins on the Friday morning with shakedown testing at the brand new Pohe Island ‘Super Special’ stage.
Teams will then be at a pre-event autograph session in the Cameron St mall from 3:30pm before the ceremonial start that begins from 4:30pm.
The action kicks off from 8am Saturday morning with the route taking the competitors over roads around Parahi in the south-west, Waipu Caves and Brooks – including the ‘Hella’ jump on Swamp Rd. They return to Whangarei for the 1.5km Pohe Island ‘Super Special’ stage before a 20minute service break at the Town Basin. The route is repeated in the afternoon with the cars then parked overnight following the service break.
Sunday begins at 6:55am and heads south through Waipu Gorge and on to Marohemo and Batley road, visiting Paparoa and Cassidy road before returning to Whangarei for a 20 minute service break. The teams repeat the stages in the early afternoon, returning to the Quayside Town Basin for a ceremonial finish from 3:15pm.
Spectators can watch for free at the start, finish and Quayside Town Basin service areas with access to rural viewing points, including the Pohe Island ‘Super Special’ stage costing just $10 per adult. Children under the age of 15 are free with a paying adult. A share of all spectator ticket revenue goes to the local community groups that help run the spectator viewing areas.
A rally map, with clearly-marked spectator viewing points, is available free to download from the event website www.rallywhangarei.co.nz, or it can be collected from rally headquarters at Quayside Town Basin (from 16 May) or found in the rally insert published in the Northern Advocate on 15 May.
Further news and ticketing information can be found on the www.rallywhangarei.co.nz website, or follow the event on Facebook.