This weekend's International Rally of Whangarei is expected to bring around $5 million of economic benefit to the district but the international exposure the racing gets is priceless, say organisers.
The rally is the opening round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship and has attracted some of the top drivers form the Asia Pacific region. It will also be the first race for Hayden Paddon since he became the first Kiwi to win a stage of the World Rally Championship in Argentina at the weekend.
In his Hyundai i20, Paddon is a hot favourite for the rally and he rates Whangarei as having some of the best roads in the world for rallying.
Paddon, who won the Whangarei event in 2007, 2009 and 2010, said he is looking forward to this weekend's rally.
Jenny Calder, community event coordinator for Venue and Events Whangarei, which helps organise the rally in the district, said rallying was a multi-million dollar industry and this weekend's event would bring about $5 million in economic benefits.
But the international exposure, a potential TV audience in the hundreds of millions, was worth far more, she said.
"It goes global. People for around the world will be watching the event and seeing Whangarei in the spotlight. It's not saying that it will instantly make them come to Whangarei, but if they are considering New Zealand they will see Whangarei as a possible destination."
Paddon signed up for the rally months ago and Rachel O'Gorman, from Venue and Events Whangarei, said after last weekend's WRC win he could have easily gone elsewhere or taken some time off.
"(Paddon's co-driver) John Kennard spoke (at an event) last night about what it takes to win a WRC stage. It was really inspiring. Everybody is talking about Hayden's win and to keep his commitment to coming here this weekend is huge and really increases our profile," Ms O'Gorman said.
The rally runs from today until Sunday on rural roads around Whangarei, with special stages at Pohe Island and the cars based at the Town Basin.