Defending Far North Rally champ Ben Hunt failed to claim a second victory after falling to Kiwi racing legend Shane van Gisbergen at this year's event.
Van Gisbergen, better known as a Supercars competitor, took the top spot by a total of 2:20.3s after a total 152.7kms in the eight stages.
Following the win, the 33-year-old Aucklander navigated by Glen Weston said he still had a lot to learn and improve in.
He and Weston finished the Waiare special stage in second place 2.9s behind Ben Hunt.
However, in the Kohumaru test that followed, van Gisbergen claimed the leading position. He went on to win special stages 3, 4, 6, in his and 8 in his Skoda Fabia R5 while coming in second in the other stages.
The Copthorne Bay of Islands Far North Rally was van Gisbergen's chance to get more comfortable in the Skoda and improve his rally communications process with Australian co-driver Weston, he said prior to the event.
His sights are set firmly on preparing for his WRC debut at Repco Rally New Zealand starting September 29 in Auckland.
The rally slipped out of the grip of 2019 champion Hunt, who failed to classify after retiring in special stage 3 with a mechanical issue that had him rejoin later in stage 5.
Dylan Turner finished second overall, both outright and in Class D (1601cc and over 4WD) ahead of Todd Bawden in a Ford Fiesta R5 Mk II.
Van Gisbergen is no stranger to victory as he won at Bathurst in 2020. Earlier this month he finished fifth in class at the Le Mans 24-hour endurance race in France.
His experience with gravel prior to the Far North Rally included competing in the 2020 City of Auckland Rally. In addition, he finished second overall in Australia's National Capital Rally earlier this month, in the same Race Torque Škoda Fabia R5 he competed in during the Far North event.
These successes rekindled van Gisbergen's strong interest in rallying that developed in his early years watching his father Robert (Cheese) - an accomplished rally driver in his own right.
Organising committee member Marty Roestenburg said it had been 1016 days since the last Far North Rally.
But this year's event proved a success, with fans taking the time to applaud the race online. Many of them say they are already counting down to the next one.