With events based in Whangarei, Wairarapa, Otago, Auckland and Gisborne, the New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) features an updated points’ structure in 2012 which offers all competitors, regardless of class, the opportunity to earn points towards the championship title.
During the previous few seasons, the title of New Zealand rally champion could only be won by competitors in the top tier category for Group N four-wheel-drive and Super 2000 cars.
Rally New Zealand chairman Peter Johnston explains: “Now every NZRC-registered competitor has the opportunity to score points towards becoming the overall New Zealand rally champion based on their overall result in each of the five NZRC events. In addition, they score points towards their respective championship category.”
The New Zealand Rally Championship is run by Rally New Zealand, which also runs three of the five events. As Rally New Zealand chairman, Johnston has been keen to see the championship grow and evolve since Rally New Zealand re-started running the series again in 2010.
“For our first year back running the championship, we had a very competitive and exciting season last year with Masterton’s Richard Mason taking the Gold Star drivers’ championship and the overall title of New Zealand rally champion for the third time,” says Johnston.
“While we have had a regrettable delay in confirming the portfolio for the 2012 New Zealand Rally Championship, as an organisation we felt it was critical to get the regulations specified in the portfolio right.
“We are very conscious of the difficulties in putting together a professional rally campaign in the current economy, so with worldwide regulations on eligible car categories changing, we have essentially opened up the championship to a much wider range of eligible cars. For the Open 4WD and 2WD classes, in particular, many more existing rally cars are able to be entered in the championship.”
Johnston adds: “We have also introduced three new classes of production category two-wheel-drive car for the 2012 NZRC. These are the FIA classes R1, R2 and R3 and examples are the Suzuki Swift 1600 R1, the Ford Fiesta R2 as built by M-Sport in the UK for this year’s FIA WRC Academy, and the Citroën DS3 R3.”
MotorSport New Zealand general manager Brian Budd agrees with Johnston that it was important to take this opportunity to review the portfolio and eligible car categories.
“The view is to encourage more competitors to enter the championship because they already own an eligible car,” says Budd. “We are mindful of where the FIA is going with the other new category – the top tier R4 production category. After significant discussion, we have elected to continue with the current top tier category of Group N 4WD and Super 2000 for the 2012 season. We’ll certainly be monitoring the R4 situation for future seasons, but have some optimism that the much wider criteria for the Open 4WD and 2WD class cars will see more eligible Group A-spec cars considered for entry in 2012.”
The categories for the 2012 NZRC are:
– Group N 4WD and Super 2000
– Group N 2WD plus FIA classes R1, R2 and R3
– Open 4WD
– Open 2WD including Kiwi 2 (subject to numbers)
– Historic rally cars
“The Open 4WD class has some provisions, such as current specification Group N 4WD cars, such as Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 and 10 models and equivalent Subaru STI models, will be required to compete in the Group N field and comply with the relevant FIA regulations,” explains Johnston.
In 2012, it will also be possible for previous junior rally champions to win the title again up to the age limit of 25 on 1 January 2012. Also competitors can carry two spare tyres at all events if they choose and a ‘power stage’ – as now features in World Rally Championship events – will be introduced to offer the chance of bonus points.
“The long-standing title of New Zealand Gold Star champion will continue to be awarded to a Group N competitor, but a competitor from any class has the opportunity to become the overall New Zealand rally champion and already my discussions with potential competitors highlight the prospect of several new competitors and cars being entered in the 2012 championship. I would also like to acknowledge the significant contributions that our championship co-ordinators Laurie Brenssell and Paul Burborough had made in putting this year’s portfolio together.”
The 2012 NZRC portfolio was approved by MotorSport New Zealand on 17 December and published on 19 December.
The 2012 event dates have been confirmed with the International Rally of Whangarei, where local competitors get to test themselves against Asia Pacific Rally Championship competitors, as the season opener. All events comprise two legs, or days, except Rally New Zealand which includes three days of competitive stages and Rally Otago where the first leg starts on Friday evening and continues on Saturday.
The New Zealand Rally Championship calendar for 2012 is:
Round 1 – 30 March to 1 April – International Rally of Whangarei (NZRC / APRC)
Round 2 – 27 to 29 April – Rally Wairarapa (NZRC)
Round 3 – 25 to 27 May – Rally Otago (NZRC)
Round 4 – 21 to 24 June – Rally New Zealand (NZRC / WRC and incorporating Possum Bourne Memorial Rally)
Round 5 – 25 to 26 August – Rally Gisborne (NZRC)
More details, including results and news, are on the NZRC website – www.nzrallychampionship.co.nz – and fans can also find out more information about any of the events on the New Zealand Rally Championship Facebook page.