NZ Classic Driver
ROUND 5 & 6: REPCO RALLY NEW ZEALAND
It’s been 10 long years since New Zealand last hosted a round of the World Rally Championship (WRC), but we had finally regained it. The main event kicked off with a ceremonial opening with the first “spectator” stage taking place in the Auckland Domain by the War Memorial Museum on Thursday night. On Friday the cars would take on the roads around Raglan, before heading back to base in Auckland for Saturday and Sunday’s legs.
The first two days of the rally formed rounds 5 and 6 of the NZRC Championship. In the time since the last event, knowing that this would be a gruelling event with plenty of points on offer, Silcock had redesigned the rear of his RX-7 to provide space for two spare tyres. The Raglan leg was particularly long with a total distance of 681kms travelled from when the cars left the Auckland Viaduct to when they returned in the evening. Remote service was also absent with just the ability to change tyres and refuel. With Jones and Murland absent this left the RX-7 driver with very little to do but have fun knowing that he and his co-driver had wrapped up the 2022 NZRC Historic Championship.
Meanwhile upfront, Hayden Paddon continued his domination with John Kennard back to reading the notes. They won both days in the wet and muddy conditions, driving the new WRC2 Hyundai to notch up a sixth championship win. He also won the WRC2 class. Supercars champ Shane van Gisbergen and co-driver Glen Weston also put in an incredible drive to take second place on the Saturday and Sunday. Hopefully he will make more rally appearances.
“I’d love to - I love what I do as a job in Supercars and if I can do this outside of that I’d love to,” said Shane. “I love the roads here in New Zealand – I’d like to do more of them and get a car for the full season – that’d be quite cool. If the date’s line-up, I’ll try to be there.”
The main act of the weekend was for the WRC cars and featured household names such as Thierry Neuville, eight-times Champion Sébastien Ogier and Petter Solberg’s son, Oliver. However, it was Kalle, the son of Harri Rovanperä, competing for the Toyota Gazoo team who outshone the other drivers to win the Rally of New Zealand and, more significantly, winning the 2022 WRC Rally Championship to become the youngest driver to do so.
The return of the WRC alongside the NZRC heralded possibly one of the most anticipated and exciting rally championships for many years. The event organisers worked tirelessly to bring the season together with what can be seen as a huge success on the back-end of a virus which wreaked havoc on many motorsport events.