The second round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), changes to its structure have drawn a strong local interest at shooting for the international title.
Headed by four-time International Rally of Whangarei winner Hayden Paddon (Wanaka), he will be joined by Samantha Gray (Timaru) in last year’s winning Hyundai i20 AP4 car. While vying for a fifth event win Paddon will be competing alongside five others chasing points for the APRC title.
The new format puts Kiwi’s in strong contention for the title – last achieved by Possum Bourne in 2000.
“It’s always a favourite event and one I look forward to testing myself on,” said 32-year-old Paddon.
“There are a few new stages as well as re-configuration of old stages so there will be some tests for us with new notes to write. It looks like it will be dry so there will be a lot less grip which isn’t in my favour.
“I always want to be going faster – that’s the best part of rallying and as a sportsperson, it’s the pursuit of becoming better that I enjoy most, rather than being affected by outside influences.”
Another change he’s used to has been a different navigator in the car.
“We’ve had a bit of co-driver roulette in the past year. It’s a great opportunity for Samantha and I’m very impressed with her pre-event preparation and testing she’s done with us – she’s very committed. For someone who’s wanting to make it internationally she’s doing really well,” he said of the Timaru based addition to the team.
Missing out on points at the opening round held at Dunedin mid-April; Mt Manganui based Dave Holder and co-driver Jason Farmer make a fresh start in their Holden Barina AP4.
While the weekend’s action will take place across closed sections of rural road the event starts on the Friday with a driver signing and ceremonial function on Whangarei’s river crossing Te Matau ā Pohe bridge from 5pm.
The teams then contest a double-run of the adjacent 1.25km Pohe Island Super Special stage that this year includes a purpose-built 1m high jump.
Sunday journey’s south covers a further four stages, repeated. Starting with the 15.23km ‘Tangihua’ south of Whatitiri, then the 16.40km ‘Waiotira’, 8.32km ‘Millbrook’ and infamous 22.55km ‘Waipu Caves’. Teams then return to Whangarei for a service break and then repeat the course, returning for a ceremonial finish at the Quayside Town Basin from 3pm.
Source: Event Release
Photos: Geoff Ridder