Motorsport: Rally New Zealand to make 2017 comeback

By Dale Budge

Hyundai's Hayden Paddon has been instrumental in pushing the return of Rally New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images
Hyundai's Hayden Paddon has been instrumental in pushing the return of Rally New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images

Rally New Zealand will make a return to the calendar in 2017 with plans for the event to be based out of Tauranga.

There is fresh hope that the World Rally Championship will green light New Zealand as an event on the 2018 calendar with Kiwi factory Hyundai star Hayden Paddon helping encourage teams and drivers to come back to New Zealand.

With that event to be planned for Tauranga should it go ahead New Zealand Rally Championship organisers have decided to bring the iconic event back next year on the domestic calendar.

"We traditionally think of Rally New Zealand as a world championship event but for next year it will return as a championship round," coordinator Blair Read tells herald.co.nz.

"That event is essentially a dry run for the 2018 world championship event, which is still being worked on in the background."

The New Zealand Rally Championship attracted increased participation and spectator numbers this season on the back of a growing interest in the sport thanks in part to Paddon's international success.

Read says the inclusion of Rally New Zealand on the domestic calendar will be welcomed by local enthusiasts.

"That will be a major boost for the championship next year having the title and the trophy of Rally New Zealand on the line," he says. "We expect that to pull even more competitors out.

"It will run over two days and be a marquee event for the championship."

"It adds another multi-day event to the championship - it will be a national championship event so it will run over two days rather than the three days a world championship event would."

It is thought the Tauranga-based rally would swallow up the Coromandel event that was run as the final event of the year in 2016.

"We are just working through the finer detail of that at the moment," Read explains. "Part of the plan would be for the Coromandel event to be worked into it. It may be a day where that event heads up the Coromandel and back.

"By the end of September there should be an announcement for the calendar for next year."

Fans can expect at least the addition of one other rally on the 2017 calendar with Rally New Zealand's inclusion seen as an addition rather than a replacement. So assuming the Coromandel event becomes part of Rally New Zealand there will be another event coming into the mix as well.

A rally closer to the huge Auckland population would make sense - events staged around the Pukekohe region have been used successfully before and there is a desire to see that become part of the championship again as early as next season.

"We are just working on a couple of options around that," Read says.

"There were some attempts to get that happening this year. We had some issues with access to Maramarua Forest. There was a lot of logging this year.

"Ideally we would have had that as the final round of the championship in September and something based out of the Auckland/Pukekohe area.

"Finding access to roads and working in with the community is a challenge.

"Ideally in the future we would love to see an event closer to Auckland and the population base."

- NZ Herald

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