With the International and National Rally of Whangarei about to kick off, Andy Smith is all set to fly the Northland flag.

Whangarei's Smith will be in one of 53 cars lining up for the two events, which sees drivers traverse 274km of Northland roads over 18 stages. This all starts with tonight's Hella Pohe Island Super Stages.

Smith said he's looking forward to driving the home roads.

"I've been doing it for a while now so it does become just another event but it is great to be racing in your home town of course," he said.


"I've done the roads few times so it'll be my own fault if anything goes wrong. It does give me a bit of an advantage [driving at home]. I'm just looking to do my best and get a finish."

Smith and co-driver Ben Huband will be driving their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 4 in the Open 4WD class of the NZRC, National and Top Half portion of the event.

Smith says the car is in good shape for the rally, which poses unique challenges in the field of car racing.

"I've had my car for about six years. It's been developed to the maximum so it runs pretty well," he said.

"The different road conditions make rally driving a lot different to any other type of racing.

"Also, all the mechanical issues that come with it make it interesting. There's a myriad of issues coming through so just getting to the starting line is always the challenge.

"I'm looking forward to all the stages but it's always really nice trying to put on a show on Pohe Island on the Friday night."

The 18-stage event takes the drivers as far north as Paihia tomorrow before they head south towards Waipu on Sunday.


All the cars have been using their time in Northland doing reconnaissance on the tracks as they prepare for the opening leg of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC).

Smith said he wouldn't even be competing without his major sponsor.

"I wouldn't have been able to make it to the starting line without Mike O'Sullivan at Motor Trade Finance," he said.

"The budgets are really tight and the expenses are quite high so without his support I definitely wouldn't be here."

There are plenty of opportunities for spectators to get a taste of the action over the course of the event.

The rally cars and teams will be at Te Matau A Pohe bridge from 5pm today for an autograph session followed from 6pm with an official welcome at the same venue before the opening two stages of the event.

Spectators are also able to watch the start and finish of the 16 remaining stages which are scattered across Northland.

Tomorrow's racing 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 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.