The route for the 2017 Rally New Zealand has been finalised with an exciting mix of stages confirmed for the November event. Based from the host city of Tauranga the 2017 edition of Rally New Zealand is the final round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship with 14 special stages covering 280 kilometres over the weekend of 24-26 November.
The Strand in Tauranga city will host a pre-event rally show and ceremonial start on Friday evening, providing fans the opportunity to get up close with the cars and stars. With Kiwi WRC driver Hayden Paddon already confirmed for the event, a large crowd is expected to see the teams flagged away from the rally start.
The competitive action will start the following morning with teams heading over the Kaimai ranges to the west coast and eight stages covering 200 kilometres based from a central service park at Raglan. Stages including Te Akau, Te Hutewai and the iconic WRC Rally NZ signature test – the world reknowned Whaanga Coast – 29 kilometres of winding gravel coast road, await drivers.
Leg two on Sunday is based from the ASB Baypark Stadium and takes in six special stages to the south of Tauranga including the 25 kilometre Manawahe test. A traditional favourite from Rally New Zealand events of the 1980’s and 1990’s the road winds through farmland and around Lake Rotoma with the favourite spectator vantage point at Helicopter corner. Rally New Zealand organisers have also combined with Motorsport Bay of Plenty to run a special stage in the TECT Park motorsport facility providing a number of great spectating opportunities for rally fans.
Rally New Zealand Event Chairman Peter Johnston says the new host location has provided the organising team with a number of options to create a memorable event for competitors and rally fans. “We’re really looking forward to bringing Rally New Zealand to Tauranga and have enjoyed fantastic support from the council and community who have been very welcoming. The Tauranga facilities including ASB Baypark Stadium are superb. Both organisers and teams are going to really enjoy working out of this location. Tauranga has also enabled Rally NZ to include a mix of our traditional stages in the Waikato and Raglan districts along with reintroducing some old favourites in the Bay of Plenty,” states Johnston
The victory celebrations and podium presentations will be held on the finish ramp back at Baypark on Sunday afternoon where another name will be added to the Rally New Zealand trophy alongside previous winners and World Rally Champions including five times winner Marcus Gronholm (Finland), four times winner Carlos Sainz (Spain), and three time winners Colin McRae (Scotland) and Sebastien Loeb (France).
With the event being the final round of the 2017 NZRC a high quality field of New Zealand’s best drivers is guaranteed including at least 10 different manufacturers. In addition organisers have received a number of enquiries from international teams with three Japanese and two Australian entrants already confirmed. “With the event being the grand finale of the NZRC for our top national crews, Hayden returning home at the end of the WRC season and some guest international entries, another classic Rally New Zealand is on the cards,” says Johnston. “Only a handful of Kiwi drivers have their name on the Rally NZ trophy, (2011 – Hayden Paddon, 1981 – Jim Donald, 1975 – Mike Marshall, 1970 – Paul Adams, 1969 – Grady Thompson) the 2017 edition is certain to be closely fought with the ultimate reward of joining this elite list of names on the trophy.”
The 2017 Rally New Zealand will be the 43rd running of the event which was last held in 2012 as a round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Rally New Zealand organisers continue their efforts to secure a return of the WRC to New Zealand at the earliest opportunity.