Malaysian based PROTON Motorsports have announced their 2013 plan starts by focusing on the International Rally of Whangarei, the opening round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, to be held from 17 to 19 May.
Winners of the event in 2011, this year's driver line-up is headed by Swedish pairing of Per-Gunnar Andersson and co-driver Emil Axelsson who will return to New Zealand with the latest specification of Satria Neo S2000.
The International Rally of Whangarei has been dominated by the new generation S2000 category of car for the past two years – breaking the winning streak Kiwi based drivers have enjoyed since the event moved to Northland in 2007.
Team Principal Chris Mellors, the man behind PROTON Motorsports says they are committed to returning the Malaysian firm's name to the top of the APRC standings: "The focus is APRC this season and we're very excited about starting testing for New Zealand very soon."
Starting from Whangarei's Cameron St Mall on Friday evening 17 May, cars and crews from around the Asia Pacific region and New Zealand will then embark on a journey of 727km over roads in the Whangarei and Kaipara districts.
Competition begins early Saturday morning with the cars leaving the Quayside Town Basin from 8am. The route takes in roads in the Waipu Caves, Brooks and Parahi area before returning to Whangarei for the Pohe Island Super Special Stage and the first service break for the day. Repeating the route in the afternoon for a total of eight special stages, the cars will then secured in an overnight park before a further eight stages on the Sunday. Leaving Whangarei just before 7am the day covers Waipu Gorge, Batley and the new Arcadia/Cassidy road combination – in and around Maungaturoto.
The finishers return to the Quayside Town Basin for a ceremonial finish at 3:15pm and the awarding of accolades.
Spectator points around the course include the world famous Hella Bridge on both days plus new roads at Pohe Island, which will extend viewing opportunities while improving access. Fans can also meet the drivers during pre-event autograph sessions and see teams working on the cars in the Quayside service areas.
The rally will also include teams competing in the six round New Zealand Rally Championship plus club and regional competitors in the Top Half rally series.
More mews and information about the International Rally of Whangarei can be found on the event website, www.rallywhangarei.co.nz