Stage Previews: Trusthouse Racetech Rally of Wairarapa
This year’s Trusthouse Racetech Rally Wairarapa moves from last year’s October slot that created plenty of issues with dust and into a more traditional June date to form round four of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship driven by VINZ on June 28.
For the second season in a row, the event runs in a one-day format and the event will use a lot of roads that have either not been used for five years, or run in the opposite direction, while heavy gravel across the majority of stages will see road sweepers disadvantaged if the weather stays dry.
Starting from the Tui Brewery in Mangatainoka, crews will tour to the first stage of the event, Coonoor Rd, which was last used in 2009 running in the opposite direction, and is also the longest stage of the event at just shy of 34 kilometres. Starting at 7.40am, sun strike could cause an issue on this stage and with this being the longest stage, easing into your work is not an option. The opening section of the stage runs up a hill for 12k alongside the Makuri Stream, climbing up towards the Puketoi range. The road then becomes tight and twisty over the range. Stage opens out again towards the finish with the odd twisty section, but the stage has multiple shaded areas so any wet weather in the lead up could lead to changeable grip levels in here, while the stage passes a lime quarry near the end, which is bound to be slippery. Crews will certainly be working up a sweat to start off the day!!
Stage two, Manuhara Rd, also last made an appearance at this event in 2009. The 19.53km test is popular with service crews who are able to head to a very spectator friendly stage start not far from the Pongaroa service park. This stage is a fast blast on wide public roads with only the odd tight corner thrown in. A tricky intersection mid-stage on tarmac has a single-lane bridge on exit that has in the past caught out the likes of Bruce Herbert and Reg Cook, before the road returns to the beautiful flowing nature typical of the stage.
A 40-minute service in Pongaroa gives teams plenty of time to iron out any dramas before tackling the 18.96km Huia/Waihoki Valley, another returning to the event after a break since 2010, when it was used in the opposite direction. The stage starts with a hillclimb that is twistier than the previous two tests with whilst also running through trees that could see changing grip levels. After turning right onto Waihoki Valley Road, the stage becomes faster with a nice flow to it, although there are a couple of sections of tighter corners to keep crews on their toes.
Stage four, Castlehill, has been part of Rally Wairarapa for a few years now, normally as one of the first stages of the event. This year sees the stage run in the opposite direction for the first time so again a new set of notes will be required. The 21.32km stage starts with a fast section of tarmac before moving onto gravel and into a tighter section through the trees. The stage opens up for a good flowing blast before again returning to a tighter section. The road changes name and nature half way through as it becomes lined by forestry, becoming a lot slower in nature. The final kilometre or so sees the stage return to open farmland and a faster road.
Stage five, Homewood, is again in the reverse direction of its usual 20.51km configuration. Starting off with a two kilometre straight that will test who has the best engine builder, the stage runs through a fast section before again moving into tighter sections, arguably the slowest section of the event to date, amongst the trees as the stage climbs uphill. The stage offers up a great base with the possibility of being slippery if the forecasted rain arrives.
After the group of three stages, teams return to the safety of a service park, this time right in the heart of Masterton at the Solway hotel, which doubles as event headquarters, again with a rather generous 40 minutes to work on their cars.
Jacksons Line, more commonly known as North Road when run in the opposite direction, becomes stage six at 13.61km. Starting on tarmac, this stage is seriously fast with cars likely to spend a lot of time in top gear before the stage turns to gravel again with a beautiful fast flowing nature. The stage returns to tarmac at a T junction and includes a near flat out blast, although the tarmac is narrow and mossy in places to keep crews honest before a single lane bridge that leads to a long straight past a popular spectator junction with a sweeping left. The road then pops over a crest and back onto gravel, but still remains fast as it climbs up towards the finish. Expect average speeds for this stage to be around the 120km/h mark.
Stage seven, Mangaoranga, is the first stage that will be familiar to anyone who competed in the event last year and is a real Rally Wairarapa classic. The opening part of the stage is fast and flowing, but begins to narrow as the stage works its way down hill towards a junction. The road then becomes slightly slower in nature as it moves in amongst the trees before opening up towards the finish just before the famous Barton’s Line spectator junction.
Stage eight, Daggs Road, is the power stage and at 14.21km will make drivers earn any bonus points they can muster. Starts off fast as it flows uphill and is punctuated with the odd section of tarmac, then after the mid-stage junction the road offers up some short tight sections as it works its way to the finish.
The final stage of the event, Te Parae Rd, is a short blast at only 6.86km and is unlikely to offer up too many problems for teams, in fact since its introduction to the event only our championship sponsor Brian Green has come to any serious grief, bellying his car out on only the fourth corner in 2011. The stage generally has a nice medium speed flow to it with one short fast section in the middle. The stage finish offers up great spectating with a couple of nice sweeping corners to spectate.
Crews are then only left with the 25km tour back into town for the finish ceremony back at the Copthorne Solway from 5.30pm.
To download a spectator map and rally itinerary please visit: www.rallywairarapa.co.nz
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.