APRC Rally of Whangarei

New Zealand Classic Car - - Nationwide News - Words and Pho­tos Steve Ritchie

This was the first round of the Asia Pa­cific Rally Cham­pi­onship, and also round one of the New Zealand Rally Cham­pi­onship. One of the classes of the NZ Rally Cham­pi­onship is the His­toric Cham­pi­onship — and in­cluded within this class are a few rally clas­sics, such as Mar­cus Van Klink’s Mazda RX-7 and Brian Stokes’ Ford Es­cort, to name just two.

Hav­ing ar­rived in Whangarei on Fri­day af­ter­noon, I promptly checked into the 1900-themed Grand Ho­tel. I’d al­ready made a quick visit to the ac­cred­i­ta­tion of­fice be­fore mak­ing my way to Pohe Is­land, where the cars were gath­ered, to take a few quick snaps and check out the Ford Fi­esta of in­ter­na­tional rally driver Ken Block — who is in New Zealand to con­test two rounds of the NZ Rally Cham­pi­onship. The cer­e­mo­nial start was next on the list, with Mayor Sh­eryl Mai open­ing the event, and all 48 cars driv­ing over the start ramp. At this time I should note that, un­for­tu­nately, Rob and Sarah Ma­son were forced to pull out of the event at the last minute, as a spon­sor­ship deal fell through.

The two spe­cial stages SS1 and SS2 Pohe Is­land be­gan un­der flood­lights once the cer­e­mo­nial pro­ceed­ings had fin­ished. Start­ing in re­verse or­der, the first car to nav­i­gate the 1.25km course was the Suzuki Swift of Jack and Brenda Wil­liamson. Although most driv­ers ran to the limit, times did not mean much at this early stage.

Af­ter a very bro­ken sleep (there was a karaoke bar be­low me, and street lights out­side my win­dow) I was up at 6:45am — my alarm clock be­ing the noise of rally cars driv­ing past.

Satur­day’s rac­ing was fo­cused 30 min­utes north of Whangarei and en­com­passed three spe­cial stages, each be­ing run in the morn­ing, then again in the af­ter­noon. Mixed weather con­di­tions made for chal­leng­ing driv­ing at times, while some driv­ers ex­pe­ri­enced me­chan­i­cal prob­lems — not to men­tion the odd spot of bar­rel-rolling by var­i­ous cars. At the end of leg one, Mar­cus Van Klink and Daniel Neill in their Mazda RX-7 were the fastest of the His­toric Chal­lenge cars, and 13th over­all in the NZRC. Brian and Anne Stokes had a mixed day in their Es­cort due to me­chan­i­cal prob­lems.

The sec­ond and fi­nal day saw the rally move south of Whangarei. As per day one, the three morn­ing stages were run again in the af­ter­noon be­fore head­ing back to Whangarei for the prize-giv­ing.

Mar­cus Van Klink once again led the way in the His­toric Class, fend­ing off Andy Martin and Matt Hay­ward in a Mazda RX-3, thus mak­ing him the win­ner of the His­toric Chal­lenge for the week­end. Brian Stokes once again ran into me­chan­i­cal is­sues on stage 14, and this time they ended his rally.

Of the Na­tional Rally Cham­pi­onship, the over­all win­ner was the popular and en­ter­tain­ing Ken Block / Alex Gel­somino duo in a Ford Fi­esta, fol­lowed by Ben Hunt / Tony Raw­storn in a Subaru Im­preza in sec­ond place. Third place was awarded to Matt and Ni­cole Sum­mer­field, also in a Subaru Im­preza.

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