In September 2019, as Ben Hunt and Tony Rawstorn checked in the final time control to win one of New Zealand's most popular rallies, competitors, service crews and officials immediately started planning for the 2020 version.
The pandemic and ensuing lockdowns put paid to any hopes of running any events, however, as cars sat in sheds and rally folk waited for the chance to hit the loud pedal once again.
Thanks to the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions earlier this year, the Copthorne Bay of Islands Far North Rally is now set to return to Northland on July 2, marking 1016 days since the 2019 event.
According to organisers, planning for the rally was well under way, with Far North District Council and iwi consultation processes said to be progressing well.
Starting from Paihia, the draft route schedule proposes more than 150 kilometres of special stages, with 190 touring kilometres.
The crews and their machines will be tested in eight special stages ranging in length from 10km to a whopping 38km.
In addition to the special stages, service stops scheduled for Kaeo, Taipa, Kaitaia, Mangamuka and the final time control at Copthorne Bay of Islands in Waitangi will ensure local communities get an opportunity to see the cars and crews up close, albeit socially-distanced.
Marty Roestenburg, a three-time winner of the Far North Rally and former custodian of the title "World's Fastest Māori", is one of the organising committee members working with Te Tai Tokerau community interests, sponsors and Far North District Council.
Roestenburg said the rally was an iconic event in the North, with a rich and successful history, with support from Iwi, communities and local leaders essential to running the rally.
"There is still considerable mahi (work) to be done over the next four months to ensure the success and mana of this event, but initial korero (discussion) has been overwhelmingly positive," Roestenburg said.
"In these troubled times it is perhaps even more important to plan and deliver exciting, fun activities such as ours, to help relieve stress, improve wellbeing, and financially benefit local communities along the rally route and throughout the district. "
Organisers of the event said the return of The Copthorne Bay of Islands Far North Rally to the "challenging, cambered gravel roads of Te Tai Tokerau" was long overdue and expected the 2022 edition would signify the return of the best cars and crews to some of the best roads in Aotearoa.
It's been a calendar highlight for nearly 25 years and, this time around, not even the global pandemic is going to get in the way.