Special Stage Guide: GoPro Daybreaker Rally


This weekend sees the final round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship driven by VINZ but teams have been set arguably the biggest challenge of the season to finish off the year.  The GoPro Daybreaker Rally takes in close to 200km of special stages across 12 hours of Rallying, kicking off with the first car leaving Palmerston North at 3.50am. As well as an early start, the first six stages were all last used is 2003, so only very few competitors would have been on them and those who have will be doing well to remember them.

The first car departs the rally start at Palmfield Motors in Palmerston North at 3.50am on Saturday morning. Following a tour from the Manawatu up towards Taihape, crews will take on the opening stage, Watershed Rd. Running in darkness, the stage starts out on a wide road set into the hill with a bank on one side and open farmland the other with the fast and flowing road punctuated by the odd tight corner. The road then passes through sections lined with trees on both sides, punctuated by more clear areas but on a slightly narrower road. The stage offers up a number of blind corners and particularly in the dark, commitment to the pace notes form the start will be rewarded.

Night stage

Stage two, Ridge Rd (This is the Taihape Ridge Rd, the stage that has changed the face of many a Daybreaker comes later in the event). With the sunrise scheduled for 19 minutes after the start of this stage, those running outside the top ten on the road can expect some rather violent sun strike to help wake them up. As the name suggests, the stage starts along a ridgeline, flowing well before becoming tighter as trees grow around the road. The stage then comes down to a seriously acute hairpin junction before a flowing run down to the finish. 

Teams will get the opportunity for Breakfast at the opening service in Taihape from 6.10am before heading to stage three, Pukeokahu Rd. The first part of this stage offers up several changes in rhythm with fast and flowing through to some point and squirt ninety-degree corners along the valley floor. After turning left in a junction, the stage begins to climb gently up a hill and becomes tighter, before briefly opening up towards the flying finish.

Stage four, Matawhero Rd, starts near Taihape and works its way through to half way through the infamous ‘Gentle Annies’, which is now sealed but was a well-known stage in its own right in the 1970’s and 80’s. At 29.5km, this is the longest stage of the event so far and manages to pack in just about everything you can pack into a rally stage. Starts out fast along the valley floor, then works its way up the hill with some sheer drop offs as the road works around the side of the hill before a downhill descent. Before climbing again, the road becomes narrow and has a heavy crown, before a final hill climb where the road is wide but has tighter sections.


The final stage before a second service is a short sharp blast, Moawhango Rd, at just 8.9km. Starts out with a few tighter corners but after turning off at the junction, this becomes a flat out blast to the flying finish. The service again in Taihape commences at 9.10am.

After service, teams head down to Mangaweka to start stage six, which is a demanding 21km stretch of road. Starting on tarmac for the first kilometre and a half, the stage flows well but is punctuated by the odd sequence of slow corners. However later in the stage, this becomes really tight and twisty and will see drivers going from lock to lock as they work their way down towards the flying finish right by the highway.

Stage seven is the power stage with bonus points on the line and several championship battles could come down to the points scored on this very stage. This is also the longest stage of the event at just shy of 43 kilometres, particularly tough backing up from the tight and twisty stage six. The stage is generally fast and flowing but is punctuated by tight sections right the way through and also has the odd section of tarmac. Whoever takes the five points here will certainly deserve them. Great viewing is available at the Waituna Valley Rd junction towards the stage end, the cars negotiating a fast jump off tarmac and onto gravel before a right hander.

The third stage in the loop before the Apiti service park is McBeth Road, the shortest test of the event at just 7.73km. This is also the first stage that was used last year, with the previous stage having only been used in 2011 and the six previous all used in 2003. Like many short stages however, they should not be treated lightly and in fact was the final stage last year where gearbox failure cost Richard Mason a certain victory. The stage starts on tarmac, climbing up the hill before running along the ridge top, which is fast and flowing but with off camber corners to keep drivers on their toes. Again good viewing is available at the mid stage junction, accessible from McBeth Road. 


The final service park at Apiti will give crews the chance to catch their breath before the final dash to the flag, starting with a new stage to the event, Utuwai, at 10km. This one appears to be one of the fastest of the event with no real nasty tricks in it, just a fast smooth driver’s road.

Stage ten, Tunipo Road, is 8.74km starts off as a medium speed road until turning left at a junction. Then becomes a flat out blast before a tight section right at the end, which is downhill for an added challenge.


With only one more stage before the end, drivers could be forgiven to letting their minds slip towards the rally finish, but there is still plenty of work to be done before any celebrations can take place. No Daybreaker would be complete without Ridge Road, the sting in the tail. This stage has determined the outcome of many a Daybreaker, completing it is enough of a challenge but the times are traditionally well spread in here too. Slightly shorter than traditional but the same as last year at 24.11km this is a fast but technical stage which as the name suggests, runs along the ridge line before turning right at a popular spectator junction and running downhill to the finish. This is certainly a fitting way to not only wrap up the GoPro Daybreaker Rally, but also the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship driven by VINZ for 2014. 

The surivivors will reach the rally finish at Palmerston Norths Square from 4.25pm on Saturday afternoon, over 12 hours after the rally start, where the podium presentation and victory celebrations will commence.

Spectator information including itinerary and map can be downloaded from the event website here: http://www.rallywairarapa.co.nz/daybreaker-spectators.php

Spectators are reminded to follow the instructions of marshals and ensure they stand well clear of the road’s edge – inside the taped off viewing areas. Enjoy the rally.


Ben Hunt & Tony Rawstorn enjoy the spoils of victory at last years Daybreaker Rally. Will they be celebrating on Saturday afternoon at the Rally Finish in the Palmerston North Square. Photo: Euan Cameron



About The Author


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