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Rally action will return to New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty region in mid-October, with a new event that will bring competition back to some well-known public road special stages. Rally Bay of Plenty is being organised by Motorsport BOP Inc. and will run on Sunday, October 18, with the start and finish based at the coastal town of Whakatane. Preliminary plans for the one-day event provide about 120km of special stage competition, and the use of stages familiar to WRC competitors, including Stanley Rd, Manawahe Rd and Herepuru Rd. All of the competitive mileage will be on closed public roads. Other activities will include a Saturday afternoon rally show in downtown Whakatane and plans to livestream the rally in a similar format to NZRC events. Rally organisers say there are multiple motivations behind adding the rally to the 2020 calendar. As well as enhancing the schedule of North Island rally events which has been impacted by COVID-19, Rally Bay of Plenty will bring an economic and community boost to the region.

Rally Bay of Plenty roads were used in Rally New Zealand in 2017.

Prior to COVID-19 restrictions the region had already seen its tourist industry significantly affected by the White Island volcanic eruption in December 2019. The most recent rally to use some of these roads was the 2017 Rally New Zealand, which was the final round of the NZRC. Some of the roads were last rallied during the early 2000s on Top Half Series events run by the Whakatane Car Club. Motorsport BOP last ran a Clubmans event in 2017 on roads near Tauranga. The upgrade in permit status from Clubmans Rally to National Rally means more than 50 crews and 80km of competition are permitted. This year’s rally will offer space for 80 crews, but will continue to place a special focus on the Novice category which has a been a traditional element of Motorsport BOP events. The supplementary regulations and full event information is expected to be published soon.

The new event will provide a significant boost to the Bay of Plenty tourist industry. Photos: Geoff Ridder

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