Fresh route for International Rally of Whangarei
This year’s NAC Insurance International Rally of Whangarei, set to run from 5 to 7 June, introduces some new road configurations for the competitive special stages in the Whangarei and Kaipara districts.
For the third successive year, the rally is based at Whangarei’s Quayside Town Basin with the official headquarters, service park – where all the rally teams work on their cars at the end of each day, and the ceremonial finish take place. The Cameron Street Mall in central Whangarei hosts the fun pre-event activities such as the ceremonial start, where each rally car and its driver and co-driver come across the start ramp and are introduced to the gathered crowd. Drivers will also be in the Cameron Street Mall signing autographs before Friday evening’s official start activities.
The NAC Insurance International Rally of Whangarei is the combined third round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) and Vantage New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC). With the addition of an all-comers clubman’s field, well over 50 teams are expected to contest the Northland event.
Event organising committee chairman Willard Martin says the two-day rally will have new sections and directions of road to challenge the crews.
“We’ve been using the same roads for two years so it was time for a freshen-up,” says Martin. “It means the crews have to develop new pace-notes and also partly, it gives roads and residents a rest in those affected areas.”
Utilising sections of road previously used by Rally New Zealand as part of earlier World Rally Championship rounds, Martin says the changes keep the unique flowing flavour that make Northland’s roads so popular with local and international drivers alike.
“There are many suitable roads within the area to choose from so it makes it very easy to go out and select a new route using world-renowned stages.
“They are smooth and flowing, not hard on the cars but the point of all competitive rallies is that the roads can be very demanding on the drivers. Unlike other countries that have events run in densely-planted tropical plantations, we have roads that are not lined with obstacles.”
Martin says several of the route alterations were made to maintain a simple flow in and out of the Whangarei service base.
Each day uses a linked group of stages, run once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
Saturday’s first special stage, 14.10 kilometres in length, ‘Mangapai Caves’ has a new first half with the second section run the same as previous years.
“The second stage, ‘Cassidy’, we are running from north to south through a new start,” explains Martin. “It has a new section in the middle, so where we go under the railway bridge, we hook a right and that puts us on to a new loop that hasn’t been used before. The finish ends up at Porter Road, an area we haven’t used for about ten years when it was part of the WRC.”
Next the 33.99km ‘Mititai’ stage uses a number of previously run sections. “It incorporates around four pieces of road we have previously used, but we have a loop of stages that start near Whangarei, circle round and head back to Whangarei at the finish of it.”
Teams then contest the NAC Insurance Pohe Island super special stage before a twenty minute service break at the Quayside Town Basin and a repeated run through the same stages in the afternoon.
Martin says the Sunday format follows a similar structure: “The 10.99km ‘Waipu Gorge’ stage is being run in reverse direction to previous years, once again to get the flow right coming out of Whangarei.”
The following 20.06km ‘Batley’ stage is entirely new to this event. However it is a well-known WRC stage simply run in reverse.
Long-time rally sponsor Hella New Zealand will again feature on the iconic Hella Bridge as part of the 18.95km ‘Wairere’ test, which along with the following ‘Millbrook’ stage are the only two stages unchanged in the line-up. Competitors return to Whangarei for the Quayside Town Basin ceremonial finish at 3pm.
Specific timings and details about the event can be found on the rally website www.rallywhangarei.co.nz, which will be updated on a regular basis with news, spectator and competitor information for the 2009 NAC Insurance International Rally of Whangarei.
Photos by Ross Hyde and Michael Young.