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Otago and Whangarei to open 2019 NZRC in style

Hyundai WRC star, Hayden Paddon, won this year's Otago Rally in his Hyundai i20 AP4+. Photo: Peter Whitten

The dates for the first two rounds of the 2019 New Zealand Rally Championship have been announced, with the Otago Rally and the Rally of Whangarei to once again open the season.

The series heads to Dunedin for the championship’s southernmost round from April 12 to 14, while the championship’s northernmost event will be three weeks later, from May 3 to 5*.

As well as being a round of the New Zealand Rally Championship, the Otago Rally will also include the popular International Otago Classic Rally, while the Rally of Whangarei will be the opening round of the world renowned FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship.

The short break between the two events provides a perfect opportunity for international competitors to bring their cars to New Zealand for back-to-back world class rallies – and on some of New Zealand’s most famous stages.

“The 2019 Otago Rally is looking great, with strong interest from international competitors and others wanting to travel to visit Dunedin,” event manager, Norman Oakley, said.

“We’re grateful for the ongoing support of the Dunedin City Council Major Events Fund, which allows us to continually produce an event that showcases our region.

“Now that the date is confirmed in mid-April, we will focus on the task of confirming our star international driver for next year.

“WRC star, Mads Ostberg, was a huge hit this year, and we’re hoping for a driver of similar status once again.”

After a ceremonial start in Dunedin’s Octagon on Friday, April 12, day one of the 2019 Otago Rally will head north of Dunedin, and using some favourite stages west of Oamaru.

Day two will be based around the picturesque Lake Waihola, with famous Otago Rally stages such as Whare Flat, Blackrock, Waipori Gorge, Berwick Forest and, of course, the international renowned Kuri Bush.

The event will offer competitors around 280 kilometres of special stages over two days.

The International Rally of Whangarei will again use the epic roads that have been the backbone of WRC and APRC events for many years, including the popular spectator stage at Pohe Island.

“The event enjoys strong support from the Whangarei District Council, and the revamped FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship will attract international competitors for New Zealand’s top drivers to pit their skills against,” event chairman, Willard Martin, said.

“This rally provides the opportunity for excellent exposure for the Far North of New Zealand to display the tourism opportunities of this unique region.”

The ceremonial start will again feature the Te Matau a Pohe Bridge, followed by the Super Special Stage on Pohe Island.

Day one will feature the excellent stages north of Whangarei, and day two will use the traditional WRC roads south of Whangarei.

“The International Rally of Whangarei will be held over 280 kilometres, the same distance as the Otago Rally, and we look forward to international competitors taking the opportunity to contest events in both the South and the North islands of New Zealand,” Martin added.

New Zealand Rally Championship co-ordinator, Simon Bell, was also upbeat about the 2019 season.

“Starting the season with Otago Rally and then International Rally of Whangarei provides the sport with a great launching pad for the 2019 New Zealand Rally Championship season,” NZRC co-ordinator, Simon Bell, said.

“These two events attract the most overseas interest in our series currently, and as they are both two-day events, there is a great opportunity for overseas drivers to really have a ‘New Zealand Rally Experience’.

“The hope is that with them being three weeks apart, international competitors will plan to stick around, have a bit of a holiday in between, enjoy the scenery and sample the local cuisine, and at the same time enter both events.”

* subject to confirmation by the the FIA

Peter has been the editor of RallySport Magazine since its inception in 1989, in both printed and online form. He is a long-time competitor, event organiser and official, as well as working in the media.

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