Motorsport: Rally schedule revolves around Paddon, Murphy

By Dale Budge

International stars Hayden Paddon and Greg Murphy's busy schedules have made the task of confirming the 2017 New Zealand Rally Championship rather difficult.

Paddon, who drives for the Hyundai World Rally Team in the World Rally Championship, and Murphy, who now works as a television commentator for the Supercars championship, are the two biggest drawcards in an exciting domestic championship.

The return of Rally New Zealand and a new event in the Waikato headlines the six-event domestic calendar with special thought given to Paddon's schedule so that he can compete at home as often as possible. The season was only fully confirmed last weekend with the date for the International Rally of Whangarei locked in.

"It has been a major challenge trying to get the calendar to work this year for where we can get events, venue access, working in with residents, to fit Hayden's schedule in there where possible so he can attend a couple of events next year and to not clash with V8 Supercars so that Greg Murphy can be at as many events as possible," New Zealand Rally Championship coordinator Blair Read tells herald.co.nz.

"Hayden will be at Rally New Zealand at a minimum and hopefully a couple of other events as well."

Gone from next year's calendar is Rally Gisborne, while a Hawke's Bay-based event also missed out and an event close to Auckland wasn't deemed possible.

"We had a number of different events putting their hands up," Read explains.

"The biggest challenge out of trying to work them all in was the different timings each event needed to have. There has been a move away from rallying being a traditional winter sport in June or July period but at the same time events trying to work in with residents and locals so there is less impact for them with spring time and lambing and those sorts of things.

"We ended up with the best mix of events that could work within the calendar with an even spread. We have three rounds at the start, a bit of a mid-season break and then the three events at the end.

"We did have a number of other events - there was the option of going to the Hawke's Bay, a Rally NZ-run event in the Hawke's Bay, there was Gisborne, which we have used historically as well."

The roads used in the traditional Gisborne event may well be incorporated in the schedule for the two-day Rally New Zealand, which will be run out of Tauranga.

The 2017 championship also sees a Waikato Rally included.

"A clubman's event was used in the Waitomo area this year by the Hamilton Car Club using a number of old Rally New Zealand roads - stages that were used in 1980s or 1990s heading down through Otorohanga, around Pirongia and down towards Te Kuiti - a fantastic mix of roads," Read explains.

"It is good to have an event in the upper North Island again where there is a good population base and good for sponsors and crews. That was the main reason for bringing that event onto the calendar."

While they had looked at the prospect of an event being staged out of the Pukekohe region, close to Auckland, Read says that just couldn't work for 2017.

"That is something that is constantly on our agenda. Close to population bases, good for sponsors - Auckland is obviously the biggest city in the country so you want to bring the Championship close to that population base.

"Just finding where that fits in terms of the calendar and having a nice spread across the country then dictates where that fits in.

"Then with Rally New Zealand coming back next year we think we've got that being quite a marquee event. All our efforts will go into running that as well as possible.

"Hopefully in 2018 we may have another event around that Pukekohe area."

- NZ Herald

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