A combination of returning customers and new ones joined Rallytours for Rally Whangarei 2015.
The first round of the APRC as well as the NZ National Rally Champs meant the field was headed by the MRF Skoda Team, which was headed by Gaurav Gill, last years winner, and accompanied by the upcoming driver Pontus Tidemand from Sweden. Jean Louis Leyraud made up the third entry of these exciting s2000 vehicles.
The new venue at the end of before the event allowed for much easier opportunity to meet the drivers before the ceremonial start. The biggest attraction for the internet generation was Ken Block who had his whole family with him, on an extended break in NZ. His WRC car was certainly bright! Other new cars and some redeveloped ones were there to view, with special interest in Andrew Hawkswood’s Mazda and Alex Kelsey’s Peugeot.
The first two stages were held in the dark that evening at the short track at Pohe Island, and our elevated viewing spot was most entertaining. Obviously there were some teething troubles for some of the new cars.
For those staying in the Rally HQ there was an opportunity for breakfast with the stars, before our spectating the Saturday stages. While most of our crew were from further afield, we were joined by a couple of local spectator additions for today. After touring about one hour to the north of Whangarei, the rally route was two loops of the same three stages near Kawakawa, separated by a service back in the Town Basin at Whangarei.
This arrangement left us able to see five of the six stages, despite a near biblical rainstorm during the mid morning. We just happened to be where Kelsey’s clutch problem occurred while leading the event- what a phenomenal noise that car makes as it climbs the rev range. We returned to the evening service to find out who had broken what, before going out for a very enjoyable meal together.
Sunday stages were towards the south over familiar roads for Rally Whangarei (or Rally NZ) but often used in different combinations for variation. Again we were spectating at the spot Kelsey dipped into the water table over the brow and the LR suspension broke.
We had to replan our spectating after one stage was cancelled due to Holder’s accident, but we managed to substitute an alternative before we toured back to Auckland.