New look Whangarei to host rally season opener
A revamped International Rally of Whangarei will kick-start the 2015 rally season as it hosts the opening round of the 2015 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship and also the first round of the 2015 New Zealand Rally Championship.
Event Organisers are excited by changes to the format for 2015 which includes a host of new initiatives. The fast flowing cambered roads of the north will be the battleground for competitors, with 276 kilometres of competitive distance over the two days as the regions best rally drivers and teams will converge on the northern city chasing honours in the ninth annual running of the International Rally of Whangarei over the weekend of 17th – 19th April 2015.
The event will open on Friday night with the ceremonial start being on the spectacular new bridge in central Whangarei called Te Matau ā Pohe, or “The Fishhook of Pohe.” Located alongside and over the Pohe Island Super Stage, rally fans will be able to get up close to the cars and stars with a rally show and rally start on the bridge and then the first special stages of the rally on the Super Stage all in one location in Central Whangarei. Competitors will tackle two runs over the short spectator stage under lights providing an spectacular evening of rally action to kick-start the event.
Leg one continues on Saturday heading north of Whangarei for six stages revisiting some of the new roads used in last years event that proved popular with competitors and spectators. The fast 32 kilometre Pipiwai test starts the day, while stages at Towai (25km), a revised layout at Ruapekapeka (28km’s) and an all new test starting at Helena Bay on the Northern Coastline winding down the inlet, being the focus of the days competition.
Leg two on Sunday heads south and west of Whangarei, beginning with the demanding Springfield test, 29 kilometres of roller coaster gravel roads ending on Ruarangi Road, before venturing into new territory with two all new stages at Waiotira and Otuhi. The new stages offer a fresh challenge to drivers and co-drivers while also providing several new viewing opportunities for spectators with several prime spectator viewing points available on all three of the stages. A repeat of this loop after a visit to the Central Service Park in Whangarei completes the event before the ceremonial finish and customary spraying of the champagne on the podium back in Whangarei.
The fast flowing Northland roads are widely regarded by drivers as among the best gravel roads in the world, having previously been used during the 1980’s, 90’s and 2000’s by the New Zealand round of the World Rally Championship.
This will be the ninth annual running of the International Rally of Whangarei, with previous winners including Chris Atkinson (Australia), Cody Crocker (Australia), Essapekki Lappi (Finland), Gaurav Gill (India) and New Zealand World Rally Championship driver Hayden Paddon.