International Rally of Whangarei
Words and photos:
he International Rally of Whangarei was round one of the Asia-pacific Rally Championship (APRC) as well as the second round of the New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC). Taking place over the final weekend of April, it was made up of 16 special stages which covered a total of 274.9km from south Whangarei to north Whangarei. The popularity of rallying in New Zealand has certainly gone up a notch with the World Rally Championship ( WRC) win by Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard in the Rally Argentina, which took place just one week prior to this event. Incredibly, the pair made it back for the Rally of Whangarei to race in the Force Motorsport–prepared Hyundai i20. However, the first day of racing saw them dogged with differential issues, which forced them to retire. They came back strong on Sunday to win all six stages in spectacular form.
The Historic class takes place within the NZRC. Although this was made up of just three competitors, they were every bit as entertaining to watch, since they had none of the mod-cons the newer cars did. Saturday also saw the inclusion of the Top Half Rally Series, in which many of the drivers from the NZRC were also entered. The winners of the series were Kingsley and Waverley Jones in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII.
The ceremonial opening by Mayor Sheryl Mai on the Te Matau Pohe bridge kicked off the rally on Friday evening, and the cars then raced under
lights through Pohe Island on two runs for special stages one and two. As these two stages were just 1.25km, timing did not count for too much. That said, it was the Skoda of Gaurav Gill and Glenn Macneall that led the APRC after stage two, while the pairing of Hayden Paddon and John Kennard was the fastest by the narrowest of margins among the nationalchampionship runners.
The first full day of racing saw the cars compete in eight stages north of Whangarei. This consisted of four sections of road being raced twice over. In the APRC, the battle was on between Skoda teammates Gaurav Gill and Fabian Kreim. Although Gill won five of the eight stages, it was Kreim who came out on top of the standings come the end of the first day, due to the misfortune of a puncture to Gill’s car in the Helena stage. The Helena stage was later cancelled after championship leader Ben Hunt rolled his car. Although he and his co-driver were airlifted to the local hospital, both were cleared of any injuries. In the local championship, David Holder and co-driver Jason Farmer, driving a Lancer Evo VIII (ex Hayden Paddon), finished the day in the lead thanks to their stunning drive and the misfortunes of others. Meanwhile, further down the standings, Marcus van Klink had stamped his authority in the Historic class by winning six of the eight stages.