Two weeks out from the opening round of the 2017 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), New Zealand’s International Rally of Whangarei has been spared the predicted lashing Tropical Cyclone Cook was expected to deliver.
Ploughing southward, having impacted Pacific Island regions of New Caledonia and Vanuatu, the Category 3 graded cyclone was predicted to swath a path through the Northland region being used to host the 28-30 April event.
Instead it wandered east of predictions, leaving the region largely unscathed. International Rally of Whangarei chairman of the organising committee Mr Willard Martin said feedback from those overseeing the 796.78 km of Whangarei region roads being used was favourable: “There is good gravel on the roads and they are in equal if not better condition than they were this time last year.”
The event will feature its strongest line-up of international competition seen in several years with an equally strengthened Kiwi contingent itching to spar for time supremacy across the regions gravel roads.
Competitors will test themselves across 16 high-speed special stages, using the Northland regions fast and flowing roads once revered by World Rally Championship drivers when used as part of the Rally New Zealand event.
From 5pm Friday 28 April a driver signing session will be held at “The Fishhook of Pohe” (the bridge adjacent to Pohe Island stage), Whangarei. The international drivers will be treated to a cultural welcome from 5:45pm before the cars cross the start ramp and assemble ahead of two runs of the 1km long super special stage adjacent to the start, from 7pm.
The cars depart Whangarei early Saturday morning for two loops of four stages to the north, returning once during the day for a service break at the park area adjacent to the Toll Stadium headquarters.
Sunday’s remaining six tests are south of Whangarei. The first loop of three stages includes the well-known 22.53km Waipu Caves stage, before returning to Whangarei for a service break back at Toll Stadium mid-morning.
After the remaining three stages the cars return for the ceremonial finish at Whangarei’s picturesque Quayside Town Basin from 3pm.
Spectators can enjoy free access to the service park (adjacent to the Toll Stadium, Port Rd side) and ceremonial finish (Quayside Town Basin). Tickets for Friday’s driver signing, opening ceremony and the Hella Super Special Stage start at $20 (under 15-aged kids are free). Spectating day passes for the rural stages cost $10 and can be pre-purchased from the Rally Headquarters (Ground Floor, Toll Stadium, 51 Okara Drive, Whangarei). Paddock parking is available at some locations for a gold coin donation.