Paddon, van Gisbergen set for Auckland Rally
Hot on the heels of the recent announcement of the Rally New Zealand’s Battle of Jacks Ridge to be held in November, Rally New Zealand chairman Peter Johnston has now revealed it’ll be a bumper weekend.
The weekend of November 14- 15 will be a godsend for rally fans who suffered the cancellation of the return of the World Rally Championship to our shores, and also the New Zealand Rally Championship.
The good news, however, is that as well as the gravel bonanza at Jacks Ridge, the City of Auckland Rally is happening the day before.
“We are gutted Covid- 19 forced the cancellation of Rally New Zealand this year,” Johnston told the Weekend Herald.
“We are fighting hard to bring the event back in the future and the City of Auckland Rally gives us a chance to showcase what an amazing event we could run down here. It is going to be a fantastic experience for our best drivers here in New Zealand.”
Some of the most iconic stages used in Rally New Zealand years ago will see drivers tearing across the gravel in Kaipara Hills, Puhoi and Riverhead Forest before finishing at the purpose- built Jacks Ridge stage in Whitford.
There will be 121km of competition through stages that haven’t been used for a long time but are steeped in rallying history. Competitors will get the chance to drive on stages used in the 1980s and 1990s.
“We had all the infrastructure and roads sorted for the WRC round. Once it got cancelled, we decided to use what we had already created and have the City of Auckland Rally to get over the Covid blues.”
The li st of drivers who have already put pen to paper i s impressive. Two of the major headliners are former WRC round winner Hayden Paddon and the master of anything with an engine in it — Shane van Gisbergen.
Keeping them honest will be reigning New Zealand rally champion Ben Hunt, Sloan Cox and talented youngster Jack Hawkeswood.
“Hayden’s reputation and talent speaks for itself and Shane grew up on dirt. He’s a former national ATV champion and spent time in his early career in Quarter Midgets,” says Johnston.
“Shane has always loved rally [ his father Robert rallied throughout New Zealand], so I approached him, and he was keen to do it.
“He’s flying back straight after Bathurst and quarantines for t wo weeks just to do this event. That’s a big call for him and we really appreciate it.”
Hayden’s reputation and talent speaks for itself and Shane grew up on dirt.
Rally New Zealand chairman Peter Johnston
The rally starts at Kumeu Showgrounds at 7.50am before cars head north to the 16km Kaipara Hills stage. They then tackle the 23km Puhoi test before a 16km stage through Riverhead Forest in Auckland’s northwest.
After a late morning service back in Kumeu, drivers will head out to repeat the early three- stage loop before a second service mid- afternoon.
After a drive south of the city, the competitors will then have two runs through the 6km purpose- built Jacks Ridge stage on former NZRC champion Andrew Hawkeswood’s farm.
“The Jacks Ridge stage is a worldclass WRC power stage and would have been a real highlight on the WRC calendar this year,” said Johnston.