The Rally New Zealand crews who drove over the start ramp at The Strand in Tauranga on Friday evening will return to the Bay of Plenty later today.

The 54-car rally field, headed by Hyundai World Rally Championship driver Hayden Paddon, is contesting Saturday's first leg of high-speed gravel competition on Raglan Coast roads with six stages providing 145km of competition.

The itinerary brings the rally cars and their support crews back to Tauranga this evening.

The speedway pit area at ASB Baypark Stadium becomes a rally car service area with teams allowed 45 minutes to complete repairs and ready the cars ahead of Sunday's rallying.


The long return trip from the finish of the Te Akau South stage will bring the first car to Baypark soon after 6pm for a 6.25pm check-in time. Following the service halt the cars will be held in an overnight parc ferme at Baypark.

Tomorrow's restart from Baypark sees the first car on the road at 8.20am and heading south towards Matata where the opening test runs through the 24.45km McIvor Rd and Manawahe Rd special stage that featured in Rally New Zealand during the 1980s and 1990s.

The stage begins at 9.38am and there is a designated spectator point at the junction of Matahi Rd and Rendall Rd — a location known in rallying circles as "Helicopter Corner" after a helicopter crashed nearby during the 1985 Rally of New Zealand.

The rally then moves to the TECT All Terrain Park on Highway 36 between Tauranga and Rotorua for a 5.62km special in the Te Matai Motorsport area of the park. The stage goes green at 10.51am and there are several spectator points that are accessed via the park entry and Whataroa Rd.

There is an admission fee of $5 (no eftpos available) to watch the TECT Park stage with mid-stage viewing overlooking the autocross track section that has been incorporated into the stage.

The final stage of the loop uses Mangatoi Rd and Mountain Rd (10.56km) to finish near Oropi. The first car starts at 11.14am and the rally then returns to the Baypark service area where the first car is due at 11.59am.

The afternoon repeats the same loop of three stages with Manawahe Rd starting at 1.47pm, Te Matai Motorsport at 3pm and Mangatoi Rd/Mountain Rd at 3.23pm.
The rally finish is at Baypark with the first car due at 4.08pm ahead of a podium prizegiving ceremony.

In addition to the survivors of the 54-car field chasing honours in the final round of the New Zealand Rally Championship there is a second helping of rally competition tomorrow with the Motorsport BOP Tauranga Clubmans and Novice Rally running directly behind the main event. A separate field numbering 27 cars has entered the Clubmans Rally.