This year’s Rally New Zealand brought back a lot of memories, some great ones, but not of what you might expect.
It wasn’t all about New Zealand’s last World Rally Championship event 10 years ago. Minds also cast back to 2019, the last Rally GB.
Geographically, New Zealand couldn’t be any further away from the UK, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of similarities.
And for this year’s crop of drivers, it was the wet condition of New Zealand’s stages that invoked memories of the Welsh gravel.
It made Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville reflective, as he reinforced his sadness that the WRC currently doesn’t travel to the UK.
“The stages, I mean the whole event, long days, leaving very early, driving in the night, having the fog,” Neuville said to DirtFish when describing why he enjoyed Rally GB so much.
“It’s a very nice event I always have loved and I think it’s an event that all the drivers are missing.”
Rally GB isn’t understood to be in next year’s WRC calendar, and the regularity of New Zealand’s presence is also up in the air.
Teams will not return to the Auckland service area in 2023, with the New Zealand organzier having already confirmed that the rally will not be part of the championship next year, but it is likely to return in 2024.
Whether New Zealand can feature every year after that remains unknown, but Neuville has a plan for how both New Zealand and Rally GB could compliment each other calendar-wise in the future.
“I think it’s a rally which deserved its place,” said Neuville of Wales.
“We have Estonia, we have Finland, which are two identical rallies and we could go to Wales which is a completely different rally, more similar to New Zealand.
“It could be like a switch between Wales and New Zealand for example.”