Rally New Zealand is set to make its 32nd appearance on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar.
A decade since it was last staged and two years after the pandemic prevented an historic return of Rally New Zealand, today Auckland has been confirmed to host a round of the 2022 World Rally Championship*.
In a major morale-boost to a city currently in Alert Level 3 lockdown, the WRC Promoter has today confirmed Auckland will host the 11th round of the 2022 world championship from September 29 to October 2 next year.
With the country currently working towards opening up its borders, the return of the WRC will be a massive coup for rally fans across the country.
“We are absolutely delighted to share this terrific news with rally fans and the wider community,” Rally New Zealand chairman Peter Johnston said.
“We have worked so hard and waited so long for this moment. We got agonisingly close to having the WRC return last year before COVID interrupted and so this feels so rewarding knowing we will get to run one of the country’s most iconic sporting events once again.
“We are so grateful the WRC Promoter has decided to bring the championship back to New Zealand and can’t wait to get working on the finer details in the coming months.”
Johnston hailed the support from Auckland Unlimited as being key to getting the WRC back.
“Auckland Unlimited have been tremendous supporters of our plans for the past few years. It is going to be fantastic making Auckland the centre of the rallying and motorsport world in September and October next year.
“I also want to acknowledge the support MotorSport New Zealand has given us throughout this process. It has been a team effort securing this opportunity.”
* Subject to contract
Throughout the pandemic, increasing numbers of fans from around the world have tuned in to follow the World Championship action – the WRC now has a huge annual audience of more than 800 million viewers and billions of online impressions.
WRC Promoter managing director Jona Siebel said the championship is looking forward to making its way back to New Zealand.
“Next year marks the WRC’s 50th season and I’m delighted to welcome back New Zealand, a rally which first appeared on the calendar in 1977,” Siebel said.
“The gravel roads there are a drivers’ delight and, although our plans to return in 2020 were unfortunately derailed by COVID-19, it’s fantastic we can now push through with those.”
Richard Clarke, Head of Major and Business Events at Auckland Unlimited, said the prospect of another world-class event coming to Auckland is exciting.
“Motorsport has a celebrated history in New Zealand and no doubt fans from around the country will welcome this news.”
“We are excited about the opportunity to partner with WRC and our final agreement will deliver a diverse range of benefits for Auckland – from building on the unique sustainability story developed at the Jacks Ridge venue, to continuing our positive relationship with the local community and iwi, and providing another exciting event opportunity for locals and visitors to enjoy Tāmaki Makaurau,” Clarke said.
New Zealand’s premier driver Hayden Paddon, the only driver from the southern hemisphere to ever win a WRC event, was ecstatic upon hearing the news and has been made the event’s official ambassador.
“It is so satisfying knowing New Zealand will get to host a round of the WRC again, especially after the disappointment of missing out last year,” Paddon said.
“It has long been a dream of mine to compete against the world’s best here in my own backyard.
“It is a great day for Kiwi rally fans, and I am so thrilled to have a role to play.”
Work will begin immediately on planning the specific details of the event.
“Now we have confirmation from the FIA, Rally New Zealand is looking for a naming partner to join us on the ride,” Johnston added.
“We welcome interested companies to reach out to us.”
Tickets will be on sale in the coming months and fans are encouraged to sign up to Gravel Fan Club via www.rallynewzealand.com for all event updates.
* Subject to contract