The public will have two chances to meet and greet International Rally of Whangarei drivers as the popular event rolls into town for the 12th year in a row.

Rally enthusiasts can also view champion New Zealand rally driver Possum Bourne's Subaru 4x4 Coupe on display in the Hospice shop on Walton St, Whangarei, that is now owned by Alan and Karen Strong. Bourne raced the car in the 1984 Sanyo Rally of New Zealand.

This weekend, 53 cars will take to Northland roads to test their mettle.

Headed by World Rally Championship driver Hayden Paddon and co-driver Mal Peden in a Hyundai i20, the event includes four international participants including Australia-based Kiwi Michael Young and co-driver Malcolm Read (Toyota Yaris), Yuya Sumiyama and Takahiro Yasui (Japan) in a Skoda Fabia R5, Fabio Frisiero and Simone Scattolin (Italy) in a Peugeot 208 and Fuyuhiko Takahashi and Mitsuo Nakamura (Japan) in a Subaru STI.


Cars range from factory-supported Toyotas to classic MKII Ford Escorts.

Rally New Zealand spokesman Lance Hastings said the rally cars and teams would be at Te Matau A Pohe bridge from 5pm tomorrow for an autograph session followed from 6pm with an official welcome at the same venue. These events will be open to the public.

The cars then have two runs on Pohe Island at the William Fraser Memorial Park.

On Saturday, the race begins at 6.30am as the event heads north for the day's three double-run stages that loop up toward Paihia and then across to Helena Bay before returning to Whangarei and a service break. The journey is repeated in the afternoon.

Sunday's action starts at 7am through Waipu Caves and Millbrook areas before heading west and north through Waiotira and back to Whangarei for a service break mid-morning.

After the late morning, early afternoon repeat run the cars then arrive back in Whangarei for the ceremonial finish at the Town Basin from 3pm.

Tickets to the rural stage spectator points on Saturday and Sunday are $10 per day.

Hastings said the autograph session tomorrow and the finish at the Town Basin would be the only two opportunities for the public to meet the rally drivers.


Unlike previous years, he said due to traffic disruptions, there would be no car parade from the Town Basin to the Cameron St Mall before the races.

Whangarei District Council will release an economic impact assessment after the event, but it is expected to pump several million dollars into the local economy.