Rally cars from all over New Zealand, racing around the North Island this week, will arrive in Rotorua on Saturday.

The 2018 Silver Fern Rally, which boasts a field comprising some of the world's best classic gravel marathon specialists, began in Hamilton on Saturday and finishes in Rotorua this week.

Since 2006 the week-long, historic-focused, revival event has been held every two years. The first of the new-generation Silver Fern Rally events was organised to celebrate New Zealand's original Silver Fern Rally held in 1969.

Event organiser Peter Martin said since 2006 the event had grown in stature and was now recognised as one of the pre-eminent long-distance rally events in the world.


"That's why there are so many internationals in the field. Particularly in the UK, where there is so much interest in the longer events, the two 'must-do' marathon rallies all the historic guys want to do are the East African Safari Rally and the NZ Silver Fern," Martin said.

After heading south for a Christchurch-to-Christchurch event in 2016, this year's Silver Fern Rally returned to the North Island, starting in Hamilton and after almost 1300km of gravel special stages will end in Rotorua on Saturday.

In between are overnight stops in New Plymouth, Ohakune, Palmerston North, Havelock North and Gisborne, and included are some of New Zealand rallying's most iconic roads.

Husband and wife Brian and Anne Stokes are racing another Silver Fern Rally in their MK11 RS1800 Escort. Photo / Fast Company/ProShotz
Husband and wife Brian and Anne Stokes are racing another Silver Fern Rally in their MK11 RS1800 Escort. Photo / Fast Company/ProShotz

Meirion Evans and co-driver Lestyn Williams, of Wales, are back to defend their 2016 Historic Class title in a newly-built MK11 Ford Escort RS1800. Set to provide competition are Brits Roger Chilman and co-driver Max Freeman in Evans' old RS 1800 Escort, and Phil Squires and co-driver Nigel Hutchinson in a third MK11 Ford Escort.

The Ford Escort is by far the most popular single model entered with 19 of the 31 pairings using either MK1 or MK11 models.

There are several top-rated local combinations in that group, including the winners of the inaugural 2006 Silver Fern revival event, north Canterbury dairy farmer Brian Stokes with wife Anne co-driving, New Zealand rally veteran Brian Green and co-driver Fleur Pedersen from Palmerston North, Jeff Judd and co-driver Stephane Prevot from Christchurch, and Shane Murland and co-driver John Benton from Wellington.

Australian father and son John and David Hills have also shipped their matching MK11 RS1800s across the Tasman to compete.

All-up this year's New Zealand Silver Fern Rally has attracted 31 entries - 23 in the Historic Trophy section and eight in the Rally Challenge for newer or modified older cars.


Today drivers travel from Palmerston North to Havelock North, before racing from Havelock North to Gisborne tomorrow.

On Saturday, the first car will leave Gisborne at 8am and head towards the finish line at Rotorua's Novotel Hotel, completing special stages along the way, before prizegiving at the hotel from 7pm.