Rally New Zealand successfully lobbied the FIA in 1988 to create the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship which is an FIA Regional Championship run annually in seven countries within the region. In the early years our event was run as part of the New Zealand round of the World Rally Championship.
In 2000 the New Zealand round was run for the first time as a stand alone event based in Rotorua using the Motu special stages with an auxiliary service park at Matawai. This format was used for seven years.
2007 was the first year that the event was moved north to the fabulous roads previously used many times by New Zealand’s World Rally Championship event. With the Rally HQ, Start, Finish and Service Park at the Quayside Town Basin in the heart of Whangārei, competitors, officials and spectators are able to enjoy the great hospitality and facilities at the Basin.
The inaugural event was a great success with Hayden Paddon of New Zealand beating reigning APRC champion Cody Crocker of Australia.
In 2008 the event was the final round of the new Pacific Cup and also the Pacific Region Qualitying Event for the Pirelli Star Driver competition. Former NZ Champion Chris West and Garry Cowan won the event beating 2007 Hayden Padon and reigning APRC Champion Cody Crocker.
In 2009 Hayden Paddon came back to dominate the podium, taking out awards for Overall Winner, the Pacific Cup, qualifying for the Asia Pacific Pirelli Star Driver competition and overall for the Rally New Zealand Championship. Cody Crocker from Australia took the Overall postiton for the Asia Pacific title. Winner of the Clubmans event was Brendan Oakden from Whangārei.
Amid contesting the 2010 Production-World Rally Championship (P-WRC) Paddon and Kennard won the Whangārei event for the third time, again taking all the silverware for the Pacific Cup title and the NZRC round victory. Followed by Emma Gilmour and Ben Atkinson in a Subaru, Australian pairing Brendan Reeves and Rhianon Smyth were third with Scot Alister McRae and Bill Hayes fourth in the Proton Satria Neo. Leading a decimated clubmans field to the finish line was Coromandel’s Alex Kelsey and Raymond Bennett.
For 2011 event honours would go offshore with the S2000 Proton of Australian Chris Atkinson and co-driver Stephane Prevot edging out Paddon and Kennard in a New Zealand based Subaru STI. Kiwi’s Mason, West and Gilmour were then followed by Australian Brendan Reeves and ex-pat Scot Alister McRae in seventh, driving another Proton S2000.
In 2012 the S2000 competition had hotted up with the MRF Tyres switching from Group N Mitsubishis to the Skoda Fabia. Only days after the team took posession of the two cars, newly recruited Australian Chris Atkinson and Stephane Prevot climbed to the top step of the podium to defend their event win. Swedish rival Per-Gunnar Andersson finished second in the Proton Satria Neo S2000 with Indian Gaurav Gill third in the second MRF Skoda Fabia car. The first time ever a Kiwi team had not been on the podium, best placed local went to Christchurch’s Matt Jansen in fifth.
The 2013 event brought a step up to the level of competition with Finn pairing Esapekka Lappi and co-driver Janne Ferm joining the MRF Tyres two-car Skoda Fabia team. While the Proton two-car team suddenly withdrew prior to the start of the new season it would be Lappi and team-mate Gaurav Gill who would be the primary challengers for event honours. Kiwi Ben Hunt, one of only a few remaining competitors with an internationally compliant Group N car was also in the chase for a podium placing – taking the former Emma Gilmour campaigned car to the finish behind Lappi and Gill. It was Hunt’s first event behind the wheel of a 4WD car having spent several seasons championing in a Ford Fiesta ST.
The MRF Tyres Skoda Team continued their domination of the podium for the next 4 years with Gaurav Gill beating home his European teammate on 3 of these 4 occasions.
2015 was the only time he was bettered, by Pontus Tidemand with the Kiwi combination of APRC regular Mike Young and Malcolm Read finishing just 1.9 seconds behind Gill in third.
Rallying Social Media Mega Star Ken Block was the guest entry that year and rewarded his global following by completing the 16 stages in his Ford Fiesta H.F.H.V. 30 seconds faster than Tidemand
2018 and 2019 were the Hayden Paddon/Hyundai New Zealand Show with the WRC Round Winner dominating these editions with winning margins of over 7 minutes and 4 minutes respectively. In 2018 the APRC round win went to eventual champion Yuya Sumiyama from Japan and,
as had become common place for the preceding 6 years, in a Skoda.
2020 was of course the start of the COVID pandemic, so the rally was not held.
However it was back in 2021 and so was Hayden Paddon who completed his trifecta of consecutive Whangarei Wins for Hyundai with Ben Hunt 2nd for the third time in a row as well. However, unique in Paddon’s career, after such a long and successful period with John Kennard (JK),
was that these three wins were each achieved with a different Co-Driver – Mal Peden in 2018, Samantha Gray in 2019 and JK back in the hot seat in 2021.
The organising team has enjoyed great stability over many years and continues to receive great support from the Whangārei and Far North Councils and the Northland Car Club. The organising committee also enjoys positive working relationships with local community groups. Our grateful thanks to you all.