Whangarei to decide Pacific Cup title

A qualifying round for the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), the 12-14 May International Rally of Whangārei will confirm the 2023 Pacific Cup winner.

The Pacific Cup is a sub-title for drivers and co-drivers and contested at three of the seven rounds on the 2023 calendar. Current leaders are 2022 APRC champions Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard. The pair, in a Hyundai i20N Rally 2 car top-scored at the previous Otago Rally event, overtaking the lead previously held by Japan’s Takuma Kamada.

Due to the shortening of Rally of Tsumagoi, the opening round, only half points were awarded. None of the first round entrants are contesting the Whangārei rally, leaving it to the New Zealand entrants to chase for the title.

After starting the rally the 11 teams entered will then eligible to enter for the overall championship title decider being held 24-26 November at Indonesia’s Danau Toba Rally.

It was 2019 since the event last held a round of the APRC – due to the closure of international boards during the COVID-19 pandemic. Activity starts from 1pm Friday 12 May 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. Along with the overall rally win the Pacific Cup trophies will be awarded. 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.

Chairman of the APRC Working Group Mr Vicky Chandhok welcomed Merla’s support: “Vamcy has obviously set his goals onto the international scene in his mission to support competitors in the APRC . Having contributed towards the earlier South India Rally & the Rally Otago he has shifted focus to the Rally of Whangerei where competitors will benefit from double their prize money and the organisers will benefit from the organisation subsidy he has provided in return for branding at the event and on the cars.

“He remains committed to support the championship final in Indonesia with subsidy to competitors and has a clear focus to promote the future of the APRC.

Speaking on behalf of the event, former Chair of the Organising Committee, Mr Willard Martin said: “At at time of rapidly rising costs the support of India’s Vamcy Merla at providing the prize money and financial subsidy of running an international grade event is hugely appreciated. His support allows the organisers to be more focussed on delivering a better event while knowing the winning teams will take home more than a trophy. We look forward to seeing what Mr Merla brings to the Asia Pacific Rally Championship so we can continue to provide the best proving ground for the next world champion.”