This year’s Winmax Otago Rally and the ENEOS Otago International Classic Rallies are underway following a well-supported ceremonial start in Dunedin.
The Friday night ceremony was only secured for the New Zealand Rally Championsip opener last week, when COVID restrictions were lifted to allow public gatherings again.
Top seed and five-time Otago winner Hayden Paddon was delighted to be back out in his Hyundai i20 AP4.
“It was awesome to see so many people out for the start,” he said. “Now we’re looking forward to tomorrow and the stages. The recce went well and the roads are in really good condition. I can’t wait to be let loose on them.”
Otago Rally’s Becky Ladbrook was relieved to see the fans back, helping to generate the sort of atmosphere Dunedin on a rally Friday has become known for.
“It was great to see the Octagon, the center of Dunedin city bustling with people again,” she said. “It’s been a very long time since we saw that last [in 2019].
“The atmosphere was great with real excitement from the families all coming out to see the stars like Hamish [Bond] and Fanga Dan [Woolhouse]. It’s been a fairly brisk day here in Dunedin, but the weather’s looking pretty good for the event with dry conditions with a breeze around to keep the dust from hanging.
“We’re all set for a great weekend.”
The event gets underway with the Switchback stage at 7.25am (local time) on Saturday morning. Day one concludes back in Dunedin after nine stages and 90 miles of competition.