Rally New Zealand CEO Michael Goldstein has revealed the event’s return to the World Rally Championship this year was only meant to be a one-off, but the organizer is now keen for it to run biennially.
New Zealand hadn’t been part of the WRC since 2012 before its return last weekend. It was first supposed to make its comeback in 2020 but the COVID-19 pandemic thwarted those plans.
However throughout the rally weekend, the rally – along with WRC Promoter – announced that the event wouldn’t be back in 2023, but the intention is for it to feature on the 2024 WRC calendar instead.
“Yeah we’d love to come back in ’24,” Goldstein told DirtFish.
“All the work that’s been done, look at this [Jack’s Ridge stage] that’s been built, we should keep using it.
“All these fans… this is the thing about this is that everybody has to contribute to have an FIA world championship event in New Zealand. It’s taking a lot of people who have got a huge passion for motorsport to make this happen, it’s not a company that’s coming along and sponsoring it.”
Goldstein has therefore made a promise to Kiwi rally fans: Rally New Zealand will be back in the future.
“That’s the key thing, this is it,” said Goldstein.
“Three months ago, literally, we were shooting for a one-off, there’s no bull*** with that. And now, Steve [Horne, rally chairman] in particular said ‘we’re doing a lot of work here, it’s not easy, so let’s not just do it as a one-off, let’s keep having this event’.
“And then when you talk to our partners and they’re looking at the numbers and bought into it, it’s like OK let’s look at doing this more. And that’s essentially what’s happened over the last few months.
“It isn’t happening for ’23, we obviously looked at that for a while [but] I think it’s a good thing to not have it every year.
“I don’t think New Zealand can afford it every year.”
New Zealand’s return was largely lauded as a success with spectator tickets selling out before the week of the rally, but there were some concerns from teams and drivers – particularly with the shortness of Sunday’s final leg which was just 19 miles long, shorter than the Te Akau South stage that ran twice on Friday.
Goldstein can understand that criticism but explained that the financial backing the rally received from host city Auckland made it difficult to venture anywhere further north like Whangarei.
“We have to be based in Auckland and that is about funding and this was all organized three years ago, 2019. And then there’s obviously criteria by which the WRC Promoter works with and the FIA works with and we’ve tried to fit within that.
“Clearly we’d like to have a few more kilometers but I don’t think an extra 30km would make a difference in this rally,” Goldstein said.
“There’s also a new motorway being built so that changes things [for the future],” he added.
“Auckland’s one of the fastest growing cities in this part of the world, so traffic’s obviously a challenge. There’s lots of motorways being built and it makes places like Warkworth, which is where we come out of after Kaipara Hills, this used to be an outpost but it’s becoming almost like a suburb.
“And if in two years’ time, when this motorway’s in that spits out at Warkworth, then it actually does change things a bit.”