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Next weekend’s NAC Insurance International Rally of Whangarei (5 - 7 June) offers dedicated and first-time spectators numerous premium viewing locations during the two days of competition in the Whangarei and Kaipara districts.
 
Based at the Whangarei Town Basin for the third successive year, the two-day rally features top teams from a variety of countries contesting the third round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC). Bolstered by the best local teams competing in the Vantage New Zealand Rally Championship division of the event, the sixty-car field also includes club-level entrants.
 
Specially-created spectator viewing areas provide easy access to see the cars in action, says rally chairman Willard Martin.
 
“Our prime spectator points offer some extra benefits with a mix of on-site catering, live commentary and toilet facilities available at the different sites,” says Martin. “A day pass, granting access to either Saturday or Sunday’s on-rally spectator areas and the stage start and finish control areas, costs $10 per adult with children under 15 years of age free. The NAC Insurance-branded Pohe Island super special stage, which is used twice on Saturday, also has a $10 adult ticket price. Remember, the rally returns fifty per cent of all ticket revenue to local community groups.”
 
Each day uses a linked group of roads, run once in the morning and once in the afternoon, totalling 280 kilometres of gravel over sixteen competition stages.
 
“As well as the clearly sign-posted spectator viewing points, the public may watch the timed start and finish of each stage, where day passes will be needed. We request that you follow the directions of the safety marshals at all times,” reminds Martin.
 
A free rally map, showing all the spectator points – free and ticketed – can be downloaded from the spectator section of the event’s website, www.rallywhangarei.co.nz, says Martin.
 
“Alternatively, visit rally headquarters at Whangarei’s Quayside Town Basin to pick up a free copy of the map or look out for the local publication, Scene magazine, which has a special rally supplement which includes the map.”
 
Martin also notes that several spectator areas have easy wheelchair access. “Call our office on 0800 725596 and we’ll be able to suggest the best wheelchair options.”
 
Building up to the weekend’s competition, several teams are helping make Friday a special day at school for the local winners of the rally colouring competition. The three age-group winners will be given a ride from their home to school in a rally car convey, with drivers and co-drivers handing out posters and signing autographs before heading off to Pohe Island for their official shakedown test runs at 10am. Cleaned and polished, the cars and teams will take part in a parade through central Whangarei from 12:30pm before a special New Zealand versus international on-water waka race not far from the town basin at 1:15pm.
 
Crews and cars are again lined up for the big autograph signing session in the Cameron Street mall from 4pm before the official start ceremony begins at 5pm. There’s always a fantastic atmosphere as knowledgeable commentators introduce every crew as each car is “flagged” across the start ramp – the first car crosses the ramp at 5:30 with the whole free-to-enjoy ceremony scheduled to finish at 6:30pm.
 
Saturday’s rally action sees crews depart at 8:30am from the service park alongside the Quayside Town Basin and head towards to NorthTec Mangapai Caves for the first of three gravel tests. The first cars will pass the prime spectator area in the second stage, called Cassidy, off Taipuha Road south of Waiotira shortly after 9am.
 
The NAC Insurance Pohe Island super special stage, on Riverside Drive, features additional family activities for those who wish to enjoy up-close rally action without travelling far from the central city. The Lions Club family day include a Yamaha Dash for Cash with ten motorcycle classes racing on a specially designed course for the $3000 first prize. Top seed three-time APRC champion Cody Crocker blasts his Subaru Impreza around Pohe Island’s 1.5 km-long route at 11:33am.
 
After a brief twenty minute service at Quayside Town Basin – rally fans can watch the teams cleaning and checking the cars – the rally crews head out to repeat the morning’s four stages with Crocker due to start special stage five, NorthTec Mangapai Caves, at 1:33pm. The leading cars will pass the afternoon’s prime spectator point at approximately 2pm.
 
Crews return for their second run on the NAC Insurance Pohe Island super special stage at 4:03pm before their teams are allowed a 45-minute service period, then cars are secured in an overnight park (Parc Ferme).
 
Sunday’s route takes crews south to Waipu Gorge before passing the prime spectator area in stage ten, Batley, along Bickerstaffe Road, off State Highway 12 to Maungaturoto, at 8:20am. The iconic Hella Bridge on Swamp Road, off Paparoa Road, is next with Crocker expected through the Hella Wairere stage just before 9am. After the 10.53 km Millbrook stage, crews to return for a brief service break in Whangarei from 10:30am before immediately setting out to repeat the morning’s route. The first cars will pass the prime spectator points in Bickerstaffe Road, stage 14, and the Hella Bridge, stage 15, from 12:26 pm and 1:04pm respectively.
 
“To be classified as an official finisher, crews must complete the final stage 16 and return to Whangarei to cross the finish ramp. This will see the freshly-washed rally cars assembled by 2:50pm to cross over the finish ramp in order, winner first, with the obligatory champagne celebrations by the various category place-getters,” says Martin. “Both the ceremonial start in Cameron Street Mall on Friday evening and Sunday’s official finish and prize-giving at Quayside Town Basin are free to attend and we welcome everyone to come and enjoy the cars, drivers and great atmosphere.”
 
“Tickets can be purchased on the day from all of the spectator points (cash only), or from rally headquarters at Quayside Town Basin, Whangarei, which opens on Wednesday 3 June.”
 
Full details regarding all spectator viewing areas, the rally map, full entry list, stage routes and times can be found on the event website, www.rallywhangarei.co.nz, in the spectator section.
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