Stage Preview: VINZ International Rally Whangarei
This year’s VINZ International Rally of Whangarei sees the event receive its biggest change in format in several years. Traditionally run entirely to the south of Whangarei, for 2014 the first day heads North of Whangarei using new roads for the event, before the second leg takes in the traditional international stages from years past.
As in previous years, the event gets underway with the ceremonial start in the Cameron Street mall on the Friday night. Cars will be on display from 3.30pm onwards with a driver signing session and festivities preceding the first car over the start ramp at 5.30pm.
The following day the action gets underway at a rather civilised 9am, when cars will head north to contest Stage one Otakairangi for the first time. The stage has some very fast sections that flow together nicely and like all roads in the Northland region, offer up plenty of camber. While the stage is unlikely to cause too many problems early on, it will be a stage that rewards the brave and committed, so the possibility of making a flying start is on the cards.
Stage two, Pipiwai, is flowing and consistent in nature and the stage in its entirety was run in the opposite direction in Rally of the North last year. On un-checked safety notes, Dylan Turner took the stage win last year at an average of just over 107km/h, so expect the likes of Richard Mason or Jan Kopecky on two-pass recced notes to bump that figure up even higher, especially on the second pass if the weather stays dry. At 32.6km, it is also the longest stage of the event so is likely to be the critical stage of the day.
The final stage of the morning loop is the 19.97km Marlow. Again part of this road is from Rally of the North, although the final few kilometres see the event follow a road never before rallied on back up to the main highway that will take the crews to Whangarei. This stage will be the slowest of the morning loop, and is a challenging stretch of road, changing between flowing fast sections and twisty, narrower sections with plenty of rhythm changes and is arguably the most demanding of the opening three stages. Unlike the previous two stages, this stage will only be run in the morning loop.
Cars return to the Whangarei Town Basin for a 20 minute service with first car due at 12.14pm. The service area is always a great location to see the cars and crews up close.
Teams head back out to the opening two stages which are repeated as stage four and five before taking on a new challenge for the final stage of the day, Tapui. Known to Rally of the North competitors as Ruapekapeka, this stage is a fantastic challenge that starts out on fast, flowing, wide open roads through farmland before a short hillclimb that leads to a junction (watch the trees!) and immediately onto a narrow and twisty road that will likely make this the slowest stage of the rally. Great viewing is available at the mid stage junction (take Akerama Rd off SH1 to access). Crews then return to the Quayside Basin in Whangarei for a 45 minute service from 4.45pm.
This year the Super Special Stage at Pohe Island in Whangarei township moves to a night-time stage. Entertainment will commence mid-afternoon with first car on the stage at 7pm. Crews will complete two passes in reverse seeded order to round at the day before tucking the cars away in parc ferme for the night.
Day two sees a loop of three stages repeated on the more traditional International roads south of Whangarei, split with a lunch time service of 20 minutes.
Stage nine is the traditional Brooks stage, which starts off fairly quick until approaching the first junction, before becoming more technical towards a Ford, including a tree stump that tore four wheels off in the 1996 Rally New Zealand, then opens up through an uphill forestry section. The stage is most famous for the Hella Bridge right at the end of the stage. UPDATED 08/04/14 – Please note a late change to the route to meet with Kaipara District council requirements has meant the stage will now finish prior to the Hella Bridge,
Stage ten, Millbrook, starts fast and heads into a series of long, sweeping corners. The stage is fast in most places and only really punctuated by two series of tighter corners and as is typical of the area, offers up plenty of camber that teams can attack. Doesn’t offer up too many nasty surprises.
The final stage in the loop is Springfield, with the first half of the stage completely new to the event. Starting on Ormiston road, this is a road typical of the area until an acute left onto Springfield road which is wide and fast tarmac. This road joins onto Mangapai Caves Road, which has been seen in the past as the second half of the Waipu Caves stage in the past, which is perhaps most famous for the final few km over Ruarangi Road, a piece of road that ducks and dives with lots of corners over crests, all along a ridge line with drop-offs. It will certainly be a sting in the tail, particularly as the second run of this stage is the NZRC Power Stage. Prime viewing spots are accessible from Ruarangi Rd or Mangapai Caves Rd, off Mangapai Rd. First car at 9.39am and then again at 1.14pm.
After a tour back to Whangarei for final service, the Ceremonial Finish and podium presentations will take place at the Quayside Town Basin from 3pm.
Further information including detailed spectator maps and itinerary can be accessed from the Rally Whangarei website: www.rallywhangarei.co.nz, or you can pick up a copy from Rally Headquarters, Cnr Dent Street and Quayside Way, Whangarei from Wednesday 9 April until Sunday 12 April 2014. It will also be found in the rally insert to be published in the Northern Advocate on Wednesday 9th April.
Remember to always listen to the safety marshals instructions, and stand in areas directed for spectating.
Words: BB Media NZ.
Photography: Euan Cameron Photography.