New Zealand has to be one of the most picturesque places on planet Earth. It’s got everything. It’s the place that brought Tolkein’s ring thing to life.
But more than that, at least as far as we’re concerned, it’s a place with unbelievable roads and stunning backdrops. I know we’re more than a week down the road since the World Rally Championship departed Auckland, but there’s still time for this.
Being so photogenic, as you can imagine it’s a land that’s loved by photographers.
Ross Hyde – Roscoe – has grown up looking down the lens at rally cars in this stunning nation in the South Pacific.
Being the diamond that he is, Roscoe agreed to take us on a tour of Rally New Zealand through his own eyes.
“I photographed my first rally when I was 18,” he said. “The only thing I knew about it was that I needed a map. But after that rally I was hooked, and the passion for rallying and capturing these cars and their drivers has not dimmed.
“The New Zealand national championship in the 1970s and ’80s was quite strong and a great place to learn. It was exhilarating to shoot a rally, drive home with one’s bag of exposed films, so exciting pulling them out of the canister and seeing your successes and, of course, your failures.”
One of his earlier visits to Rally New Zealand came in 1979, when he landed this stunning shot of Hannu Mikkola’s Ford Escort RS1800.
“This was taken south of Te Kuiti,” said Hyde. “I was up a tree. Even in my reckless youth, I realized that there wasn’t much space on the side of the road. This was my first rally using the medium format Mamiya 645. The tube-like appearance of the lights is caused by rear curtain synchronization of the flash unit.”
For Hyde, there’s way more to the job than pushing the button – preparation and location are vital.
“In the mid-’80s I began using helicopters to follow rallies,” he said. “This was the start of driving over the stages to find the best photo locations, and since then I have photo recced every rally I have done.
“I love the detailed work of driving the stages to find the right location. The ultimate is to find a location that gives dynamic rally action within a beautiful landscape. Rallies are run in some of the most picturesque places on earth and incorporating the landscape into the image is always something I strive to do.”
Using a helicopter to chase a rally usually means you’re never far from being in the right place at the right time.
“We were following Hannu Mikkola in a helicopter when he rolled on the Manawahe Road stage,” said Hyde. “We landed just behind the Audi mechanics’ helicopter. Mikkola, [Audi technical director] Roland Gumpert and the mechanics were trying to put an engine fire out.
“The car went on to finish the rally and, if I am correct in remembering, the car stayed in New Zealand and was purchased by Malcolm Stewart and then later Brian Green.”
Ask Roscoe the inevitable question about his favorite picture and he’s stumped.
“People ask me that a lot,” he said. “I always say there is no best image. You can always improve, hone your photographic skills and develop your style.
“But, you also need to bear in mind that there is often a certain amount of luck involved with the light and the weather, that kind of thing.
“Having said that, it is the search to find that elusive best image that still drives me.”
In place of a favourite, he did come up with a picture that shouted Rally New Zealand.
“This one,” he said, “really says NZ to me. It’s taken at the iconic Swamp Road bridge jump, with the crowd, the NZ flag, the toi tois (New Zealand grass) in the background and the photographers, of course. This was Mikko Hirvonen in the Citroën in 2012.”
There’s plenty more photos in Roscoe’s archive spanning decades of Rally New Zealand history. For us, he’s picked out the best of the bunch. Sit back, swipe away and admire one of the world’s most picturesque rallies through his lens below.