The roads of Northland become race tracks this week for the International Rally of Whangārei.
The 2022 Rally of Whangārei doubles as a round of the 2022 FIA Asia Pacific Rally
Championship and round 2 of the 2022 New Zealand Rally Championship.
The event spans three days, May 13 - May 15, with the Pohe Island Super Special Stage lighting up the night on Friday 13.
The Shakedown on Pohe Island began at 1pm on Friday with lucky invited guests enjoying the opportunity to sit in the co-driver seat for a high-speed blast around the stage.
Northern Advocate reporter Jaime Lyth got to a passenger seat ride with driver Duncan McCrostie in what was his third time at the event.
"I did it 10 years ago in the old classic rally car, and then I did it last year in this thing," said McCrostie.
Kiwi star Hayden Paddon races to defend his title at the International Rally of Whangārei this weekend, after winning last year's event.
Paddon is going for his eighth title in Whangārei at the same time he's keen to support a deserving local through his Paddon Project.
Start your engines
About 1000 spectators gathered on and underneath the Te Matau ā Pohe bridge to get a look at the event on Friday night.
All of the cars lined up on the bridge for the Ceremonial Start, which was opened by Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai.
Drivers and co-drivers signed autographs for fans while petrol-heads had the chance to get up close to the cars.
The event is missing international drivers and cars again this year due to the ongoing pandemic but crowds will still see a large number of races.
The Kiwi rally drivers will be racing in number reverse from the last car to the first car.
The new base at Pohe Island has been redeveloped to provide more space, with the ENEOS Service Park and HQ being closer together.
Darren Pace, 50, is volunteering for the rally over the whole weekend after loving it last year.
"I came last year to watch it on the island and I decided I was going to volunteer this year."
Pace has lived in Northland for two and half years but has been following rally racing since he lived in the UK.
"I'm pleased to see Emma because I follow McLaren."
Emma Gilmour was announced as McLaren Racing's first-ever female racing driver in November 2021.
"My son roots for Hayden because he met Hayden last year, and he goes, that's my mate."
Andrew Brown, 61, bought tickets to the rally and is looking forward to watching it tonight.
Brown only moved to Whangarei two months ago and walked over to the bridge to watch the shakedown after hearing the car noise from his boat.
"It's amazing the technology, they're just so quick.
"I've been sending videos to my kids down south, they are jealous."
Kevin Hill, 70, didn't realise the even was on until he realised the road he was biking down was blocked.
"I saw the dust and thought I'd see what was going on."
Watching the cars was a nice pre-pub break for Hill, who was happy to see events returning to the city.
"It's good to see something happening in Whangārei."