Kaiapoi’s Marcus van Klink will make the long awaited national championship debut of his Buteline Mazda RX-8 at the second round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, the International Rally of Whangarei, starting on Friday.
Unlike the historic specification Mazda RX-7 van Klink and co-driver Dave Neill have campaigned over the past six seasons and at the season opening Otago Classic Rally this year, the more modern RX-8 runs to open two-wheel drive specifications including a more powerful triple-rotor engine, sequential gearbox and carbon fibre panels.
The car already has a cult following having been campaigned in last year’s Targa tarmac rally and at the Westland Rally earlier this year, with videos of the car passing the eye of more than half a million people on Facebook.
Having campaigned the classic RX-7 at the opening round, effectively forcing him to use his ‘drop a round’ in the open two-wheel drive class right at the start of the season, van Klink is well aware that he needs a strong result to kick start his hunt for a fifth national title (to go with four Historic category championships).
“It’s gonna be pretty cool to have the RX-8 out and chasing the open-two wheel drive title for the rest of the season, it’s an awesome car and the spectators will be in for a treat because it just sounds awesome,” says van Klink. “Having said that, the RX-7 was a really well developed package and I’m not sure the new car will really be that much faster, certainly at Whangarei rear tyre wear might be a bit of an issue with the extra power the car has. We’ll be trying pretty hard though.”
The International Rally of Whangarei kicks off with a ceremonial start on Whangarei’s Te Matua A Pohe Bridge from 6.15pm, followed immediately by two super special stages. The following day sees teams tackle eight special stages totalling 152.5km as far north as Paihia, before Sunday’s action sees a further six special stages and 108km of special stages before the ceremonial finish held at Whangarei’s town Basin from 3pm.