The full route of New Zealand’s round of the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship has been confirmed by Rally New Zealand’s organising committee with the release of Rally Guide 1
Rally New Zealand’s clerk of the course Willard Martin says that new WRC event guidelines allow greater flexibility in planning the rally route to include a mixture of roads and stage timing last used more than a decade ago.
“For 2010, we have options such as mixed road surfaces in a particular timed rally stage, starting earlier or ending later in the day and the use of remote service parks outside Auckland,” says Martin.
“Competitors are allowed just the one specified Pirelli tyre, which will be a gravel tyre for New Zealand, yet we’ll be sending them through stages such as ‘New Franklin’, near Glen Murray in north Waikato, which has both tarmac and gravel sections, so the potential for exciting on-the-road action is extremely high!”
The opportunities for fans to get close to teams and cars abound throughout the week leading up to the three-day rally, which officially commences with the ceremonial start at Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour at 6:30pm, Thursday 6 May.
“Day one, Friday 7 May, sees the top seeded driver pairing depart the service park at Queens Wharf at 7:15am to head north for the first stage of the rally, ‘Waipu Gorge’. The day’s nine stages include ‘Cassidy’ with the iconic Hella Bridge on Swamp Road, just north of Paparoa, offering spectators a fantastic viewing point as the cars jump the hump-bridge twice during their two runs.
“Friday also sees all competitors – from the fastest WRC drivers to the smallest two-wheel-drive cars in the field – rendezvous in the Whangarei service park. The leading cars will be at Whangarei’s Quayside Town Basin for about an hour from midday where there is a brief opportunity for promotional activities and autograph signing outside the service park.
“We intend to finish day one with a super special stage in the Auckland Domain, bringing competitors into the heart of Auckland City for legions of Auckland’s rally fans and families to enjoy the WRC spectacle close to home. We are currently working hard to secure the consent for this Domain stage to proceed.”
Saturday’s first stage is ‘New Franklin’ with its mixture of road surfaces, which leads into the day’s action through the Franklin and north Waikato districts. Competitors tackle eight stages in total, comprising a set of four stages repeated once and including a super special stage at the new Hampton Downs race circuit, just to the south of Mercer.
“The all-tarmac runs at Hampton Downs are sure to be truly spectacular to watch – it certainly extends the drivers using gravel tyres on tarmac – and fans can also see the rally teams at work in the service park set up at the circuit for the day,” says Martin. The rally action at Hampton Downs will be complemented by a full day of motorsport entertainment with details to be announced in the New Year.
On Sunday, crews again head south out of Auckland with the longest touring stage of the event taking them to ‘Te Hutewai’ south of Raglan, and the much-photographed, highly scenic ‘Whaanga Coast’ which runs north up the Raglan coastline. The service park will be at Raglan Airfield. The final stage ‘Old Mountain Road’, which will be televised brings the day’s total timed runs to five before the crews drive back to Auckland and the ceremonial finish at Queens Wharf at 4pm.
The 2010 running of Rally New Zealand – the event’s 40th anniversary – covers 406km of competitive stages and 1498km in total.
“We will soon have a clearer indication which teams will be competing here next year, and certainly at this stage, the field is looking very competitive with the confirmed return of six-time WRC champion Sebastian Loeb with Citroën and the man who missed out on this year’s WRC title by just one point, Ford’s top driver Mikko Hirvonen,” says Martin.
As well as being a WRC round in 2010, Rally New Zealand counts as a round for the FIA Production World Rally Championship (PWRC), the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship, the FIA WRC Cup for Teams and the New Zealand Rally Championship. Between 50 and 60 teams are expected to enter.
The next key date for officials is the publication of the event’s Supplementary Regulations which are due with teams by 5 March 2010, the day that entries are officially open. Entries close on 6 April with the seeded entry list available on 16 April.