All go for International Rally of Whangārei this weekend
The 12-14 May running of the 2023 International Rally of Whangarei is underway with teams now doing pre-event reconnaissance.
Preparation for the return of the international level to the Whangārei region comes after numerous weather events and successive years hiatus through COVID-19 restrictions.
Organisers are now looking ahead following Tuesday’s rain downpour – focussing on delivering the event as planned, with currently only one minor alteration to the timetable.
Scheduled to be contested over 18 special sections of closed road, that has now been reduced to 16.
“On the Sunday we’ve removed the Tangihua road from the timetable – which was to be used twice,” said Mr Steve Foster, chairman of the organising committee.
“Following the weather front that passed through we’ve had to ask and been asked the question as to the usability of some roads. Inspection has confirmed It only affected one section of road where there have been slips that are yet to be cleared. While it’s expected to be open again this afternoon we’ve opted to remove it from our schedule.”
At 14.40km long it will reduce the overall competitive distance from 254.60km to 225.80km.
Foster says Pohe Island is now the current focus. The William Fraser Memorial Park is to host Saturday’s publicity section: “Current conditions make it marginal for hospitality to setup at Pohe Island – we’re working on an alternate option while remaining optimistic the clearer weather mean we can run as planned.”
With light rain expected during the Thursday, weather for the next few days is clear.
“It’s possible a few showers could pass through later on Sunday however that’s a few days out and unlikely to affect anything,” added Foster.
The event brings 48 teams to the region – 11 of them contesting the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) category. Top-seed drivers include Hayden Paddon and Shane van Gisbergen.
Seven cars are offshore entries, including the Cusco Toyota C-HR of Michael Young. Others include Eugene Creugent and Pierre-Henri Brunet from New Caledonia, Julien Lenglet and Nelson Law from Vanuatu, Stewart Reid and Glen Alcorn from Australia.
Activity starts from 1pm Friday with shakedown testing at William Fraser Memorial Park’s Pohe Island. Drivers will then be at the Cameron St Mall from 4:45pm for a signing session ahead of the 5:30pm ceremonial start.
The competitive section begins Saturday morning with four special stage tests to the north of Whangārei. They return from 11:42am for a service stop before repeating the journey in the afternoon. The day concludes with a double run of the Pohe Island 1.15km spectator stage.
Sunday uses four road stage sections to the south – repeated after the 10:39am service break. The remaining teams return for the ceremonial finish at the Pūtahi Park – Town Basin, Whangārei, from 3pm. There is prize money of NZ$3,000 for the winning APRC entrant, $2,000 for second and $1,000 for third, provided by Indian businessman and promoter Vamcy Merla.
Spectator tickets start at $10 for the rural stages for the Saturday or Sunday, or $20 for the Pohe Island stage. Full ticketing information can be found on the spectator page.