All new ground for defending champ


Defending Open 2WD Class Champions Hamish Anderson & Sarah Brennan will compete at Rally Whangarei for the first time. Photo: Euan Cameron

Christchurch driver Hamish Anderson will be taking on the ‘unknown’ when he begins the defense of his two-wheel-drive New Zealand rally title this weekend, at the International Rally of Whangarei.

Firstly, Anderson has never competed at the Northland based rally before, all the roads used by the competitors on the first day are brand new stages to the event, and thirdly, he has new drivers and new cars competing in the same class.

Anderson, and co-driver Sarah Brennan, will use the same Toyota Levin they drove to the Open 2WD title last year – hoping improvements to the rally car during the off-season will make them competitive against much stronger competition this year.

“A fresh engine, a new computer management system and gearbox components have made the car faster, and easier to drive,” said Anderson.  “Having said that, it’s also like learning [to drive] the car all over again,” he added.

A local North Canterbury sprint was recently used to ‘check the car over’ before the team begin the long trek to the top of the North Island.

The Toyota ran without any issues and now Anderson is keen to see how he’ll match-up against some of the international drivers coming to compete at Whangarei. They include Michael Young (Proton), the current Asia-Pacific 2WD Cup holder who is based in Opotiki.

“This rally is the only two-pass recce [reconnaissance] event we get to compete in, which means we get to go over the roads twice while we’re making our pace-notes,” explained Anderson.

“The roads on the first day are new for all the drivers, so at least novice pace-note drivers like me, are not at such a disadvantage against the drivers that have been there many times before.

“There are some new generation cars entered as well, so we’ll have to see how the loyal Levin goes against them. Especially the brand-new Toyota 86!”

The international Rally of Whangarei begins a six-round championship that then heads to the South Island for two events in May and June, before returning to the North Island for the final three rallies.

On the first day of competition the Special Stages will be held to the north of the city before the crews tackle commonly used stages to the south on Sunday.  In total there is just over 240 kilometres of high-speed driving covering 14 Special Stages.

The Anderson rally team are supported by Goodyear, Rally Tyres NZ Ltd, Mammoth Web, Autolign, Dunlop, P J Repairs, Beaurepaires and Inflatablez: The Cube Event Tent.


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The New Zealand Rally Championship is this country’s premier nationwide rally championship. It attracts New Zealand’s best drivers to compete in numerous categories for the prestigious MotorSport New Zealand-sanctioned rally championship titles. In 2024, there are six NZRC rounds, each with a unique character reflecting the diverse regions – from Northland to Invercargill