The best 25 stages in NZ rallying – 21-25

Richard Mason at Hauturu in 2006. Photo / Geoff Ridder

In our countdown of the top 25 stages in New Zealand rallying, our experts have locked in the stages ranked 21-25.

Here’s how they finished.

Number 25: Lady Lake (Westland)

Consistently run as part of the Westland Rally in both directions, Lady Lake is a ‘blind’ stage driven with more commitment than any other in the country. And it’s fast. This year, Josh Marston topped the standings at an average speed of 132.72km/h.

Like most roads on ‘the Coast’, the surface is built hard to cope with the extra rain fall the region regularly receives so the surface is just perfect for rallying and combined with nice cambers and a generally flowing piece of road with small undulations that reward commitment. It doesn’t offer too many nasty surprises except a couple of single lane bridges near the end but is normally run early in the day and if you haven’t woken up early, there’s plenty of time to be lost.

The afternoon traditionally sees the stage run in reverse, which sees the main spectator junction a big commitment exercise. The knowledge of the road by front runners is such there is debate as to if the road would be faster on recce’d notes than it currently is in its blind format.

Brian Stokes: “Flat, watch the bridge!”

Shane van Gisbergen on his way to winning at Jacks Rdige. Photo / Geoff Ridder

Number 24: Jacks Ridge (Auckland)

Constructed in 2020 to be used for the return of the World Rally Championship, Jacks Ridge is a purpose-built 6km test on 2017 national champion Andrew Hawkeswood’s Whitford property.

Built by a rally driver for rally drivers, this stage has it all and is located just 20 minutes from downtown Auckland.

The stage is relentless, and features highlights of rallying from all around this great country. The opening section of the stage alternates between paddock and toi-toi country, before the first junction leads to a short tarmac blast down to the start of the now infamous Repco Battle of Jacks Ridge rally sprint stage, working its way through the 2km arena, featuring probably the biggest jump in New Zealand rallying. The road briefly detours off the rally sprint course into a tight and twisty section, re-joining the rally sprint road for a brief section before a tricky-to-spot 90 degree right.

From here, the road just gets better. It climbs a steep uphill before a tricky jump that goes right at the same time. Some undulating corners lead you to the next jump, this one going slightly left. It’s just flat, but hard on the brakes before leading into another tight, technical section across the valley floor. Then another hill climb, through the final junction and a final flat-out blast to the final jump over the flying finish. Amazing to think all of that is condensed into just over 6km of road.

With spectacular views of the Hauraki Gulf and ideal for spectators, Jacks Ridge has been a terrific addition to the New Zealand rally landscape.

Rocky Hudson: “Will be a New Zealand-famous stage in years to come.”

 

Number 23: Oromahoe (Paihia)

Generally, the icing on the cake of the Rally of the North, this stage offers up a bit of everything. It starts out on a wide-open gravel highway for the first three kilometres, a glorious combination of near flat-out corners before turning right and climbing up the hill. Nothing particularly nasty up the hill, just nice smooth, cambered, constant radius corners nicely spaced apart, allowing you to catch your breath.

After passing through a somewhat sudden spectator junction, it’s all downhill from there. Not long after is the first of three tricky single lane bridges, this one, still visible from the junction, has a better surface than the other two but a tricky entry (Mal Peden will confirm!).

After the third bridge, the road really changes again in nature to the section the stage is famous for, becoming narrow, tight and twisting under the trees, but still beautifully cambered. It is not generally heavy with gravel in the final section and can be treacherous in the wet. What normally works out to be a great way to finish the rally.

Only once used in an NZRC round, Rally Whangarei in 2017 in monsoon like conditions, was the first NZRC stage win for our judge Rocky Hudson.

Finishes approximately 10km out of Paihia township, so not too far to go for a well-earned beer once you’ve completed it.

Colin Smith: “Called the Motu of the North but actually a much more rewarding road and often a Far North-deciding stage.”

Sloan Cox at Oromahoe in 2010. Photo / Geoff Ridder

Number 22: Hauturu Road/Mahoe (Waitomo)

This piece of south-west Waikato road has been used in various rallies with different configurations. Most recently it has been a final stage in the popular Rally Waitomo while it also featured as a Rally New Zealand stage in the 1990s. Under that layout – it was a whopping 42kms of highly cambered, gravel road.

The 2019 stage served as the final test of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship and, with already crowned champion Ben Hunt having retired in the previous stage, a three-way battle for the win emerged between Phil Campbell, Raana Horan and Kingsley Jones. Campbell unfortunately struck a rock face, ending his rally, while a spin for Jones couldn’t stop him winning the stage, but ultimately saw Horan take a popular debut victory.

The stage is typical of back-country New Zealand gravel roads, with highly cambered corners that flow from one to the next. It starts out seriously tight, before opening up downhill with some tightening corners to catch the unwary. Also offers up several surface changes as it climbs back up the hill to the finish.

A stage that seems to always invoke drama.

Colin Smith: “Used to be one of the toughest international stages – hard work when it’s wet and all the corners are identical.”

Brian Stokes: “Corners, corners, corners, all perfectly cambered.”

 

Number 21: Taylor’s Pass (Marlborough)

Located just south of Blenheim, Taylor’s Pass was last used for a rally in the 2014 Marlborough Rally that tagged on behind day one of the Silver Fern, but has been recently used by the Marlborough Car Club as a very popular in-and-out again style rally sprint that attracts competitors from all around the South Island.

At just under 10km, it’s a short, sharp blast with a bit of everything. Starting off along the valley floor with a seriously fast blast punctuated by a couple of tricky fords to catch the unwary, the road then heads up over a hill where the road becomes a lot tighter and a very busy, opening up a little on the downhill but still with some narrow sections to catch before opening up to another flat-out blast to the finish.

Certainly, a stage that has claimed its fair share of scalps over the years, but when it all comes together nicely, a real adrenaline buzz.

Rocky Hudson: “Just a stage with a bit of everything – fords, jumps, tight, open.”

Richard Arrowsmith at Taylor’s Pass, Silver Fern Rally 2014. Photo / Geoff Ridder

       

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