How New Zealand aims to stay in WRC spotlight

It may have lost its place on the 2020 WRC calendar, but New Zealand is still keen to show what it can offer

Sebastien Loeb – Action

Kiwis are a resourceful bunch. It’s part of the reason they’ve created global sport’s most successful ever team in the All Blacks. And it’s how they intend to keep Rally New Zealand in the race for a round of next year’s World Rally Championship.

The WRC’s first return to New Zealand had been planned for September, but was lost to coronavirus last month. Organizers of the event confirmed to DirtFish that funding for that WRC counter remained in place for 2021.

Now, in an effort to further demonstrate what the world’s missing this year, comes confirmation of two November events to shine a light on the City of Sails’ rallying credentials.

The City of Auckland Rally will run on Saturday November 14 using the stages in Kaipara Hills, Puhoi and Riverhead Forest that were planned for the world championship crews later this year. The conclusion of that event will be a stage at Andrew Hawkeswood’s purpose-built Jack’s Ridge stage just 12 miles from downtown Auckland.

The four-mile Jack’s Ridge test was scheduled to run as the powerstage in September.

In addition to that City of Auckland Rally, there will be more action in Hawkeswood’s backyard on Sunday November 15, with the Battle of Jack’s Ridge rallysprint.

Rally New Zealand chairman Peter Johnston understands the need to demonstrate the investment and effort put in to bring the WRC back to New Zealand for the first time since 2012.

“We’d done the hard work, we’d created a new even centre here [in Auckland]. What these two events will do is shake down the roads and the facilities and the volunteer base which will run the event,” said Johnston. “We’re pushing hard and we’re being proactive.

“We were so pleased with the route that was coming together for Rally New Zealand. And now we want to share the Auckland-based stages with rally drivers and our fans. There are some incredible rally stages north and west of the city which are fan-friendly and on Auckland’s doorstep.

“The FIA and WRC Promoter are aware we had invested significantly into the return of Rally New Zealand. And we believe when fans get the chance to check out Jack’s Ridge they will get a sense of the excitement and magnitude of hosting the World Rally Championship, which we hope will be included on the 2021 calendar.”

The Jack’s Ridge facility is as impressive as it is ground-breaking in New Zealand. And it offers the same sort of ‘natural’ spectating venue the Sweet Lamb stage brings to mid-Wales.

Johnston continued: “Jack’s Ridge is unlike anything seen before in the history of New Zealand rallying. The stage is exciting and highly technical, incredibly spectator friendly and easily accessible for fans.

“It’s something that’s been bubbling away for a while, but the WRC returning was the perfect motivation to make it happen. Building Jack’s Ridge was all about using the lay of the land to create a stage that drivers would love, combined with safe and prime spectating opportunities.

“We are taking this opportunity to showcase our preparedness for hosting the 2021 World Rally Championship event.”