Much to enjoy for rally fans with Brother International Rally of Whangarei

Rally fans can enjoy multiple spectator vantage points to watch New Zealand’s best rally drivers take on the cream of the Asia Pacific region during the 30 March to 1 April running of the Brother International Rally of Whangarei.

The event features as the opening rounds of the 2012 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) and Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC), powered by Brother, and has attracted drivers from India, Japan, Malaysia, Australia, Sweden, United Kingdom, and New Caledonia as well as all over New Zealand. The rally is also contested by Clubman’s category competitors where it counts as a round of the Top Half Rally Series.

With 49 teams from ten different countries, hard-core rally fans and car enthusiasts from around the Whangarei region have plenty of exciting action to look forward to.

The most intense battle looks to come from top-rated APRC drivers Australian Chris Atkinson and Indian Gaurav Gill driving recently-purchased Skoda S2000 cars for Team MRF up against Swede P-G Andersson and defending APRC champion Alister McRae, from the UK, in their Protons.

Sporting manager Willard Martin and his team have identified a number of excellent spectator vantage points on the rural rally stages primarily around the Kaipara region. These add to a number of free and ticketed fan activities taking place in Whangarei.

“There is a lot going on across the three days of Brother International Rally of Whangarei and we’re really looking forward to seeing lots of spectators out enjoying the action,” says Martin.

“Remember that half of the revenue from sales of spectator tickets goes back to the local community groups who play such a vital part in the running this event. So by enjoying the rally action, you’re also helping raise funds for your community.

“We also ask that all rally spectators respect people’s property along the rally route. Remember rally cars are travelling at high speed. Stay behind fences and in the designated spectator areas. Our trained marshals understand the dangers and we appreciate everyone following the guidelines provided by the marshals at all times.”

The key spectator activities for Brother International Rally of Whangarei start on Friday 30 March with a lunchtime rally car street parade around central Whangarei, then most of the drivers hit the waters of the Quayside Town Basin to tackle the waka challenge. Pitting international drivers against their Kiwi competitors and a boat powered by event sponsors, the three crews paddle outrigger canoes for one give-it-all-you’ve-got race. The winning crew then join event sponsor Brother in selecting a randomly-drawn school from the wider Whangarei region to receive a special prize of a top-of-the range Brother printer.

Next up on Friday is the driver autograph session in the Cameron Street Mall in central Whangarei. Starting at 3:30 pm, these autograph sessions are always well-attended by rally fans young and not-so-young. Like the official start ceremony which commences at 4:30 pm, the autograph session is free to attend.

For Brother International Rally of Whangarei organisers, it’s vital to include a real sense of the host city in the opening ceremony. This year, a local Kapa Haka group, Te Puu Ao, will welcome international and local drivers to the event, then four students from Whangarei Boys High School have been invited to sing the national anthem. Each driver and co-driver pairing takes their car over the start ramp, escorted by members of a Whangarei Scout group. Expert announcers provide live commentary and driver interviews throughout.

The rally itself gets underway on Saturday morning with the first competitor departing the Quayside Town Basin service park at 7am. Each of the day’s six rural stages has spectator viewing points identified on the official rally map – available free to download from the event website, collect from rally headquarters at Quayside Town Basin or published in the rally insert in the Northern Advocate on 28 March.

Access to all rural spectator points on Saturday and Sunday is gained with a $10-per-adult ticket available from Hirepool Whangarei in Commerce Street, Killer Prawn on Bank Street or, from 29 March on, rally headquarters. Children under the age of 15 are free with a paying adult.

Saturday’s action also includes the popular Whangarei super special stage at Pohe Island with the two runs around the short, sharp special stage supported by the Lions Club family fun day. Families can enjoy both the rally action and letting the kids have fun on the ever-popular bouncy castles or pony and trap rides. There are also dog obedience demonstrations, rock-and-roll club music and dance demonstrations, a range of food and refreshments and the massive ‘dash for cash’ motorcycle racing. Practice for the dash for cash starts at 8am and the family fun day gets underway at 10am with the first rally car tackling the sprint around Pohe Island just after 11am. There’s also live commentary of rally action, plenty of parking and toilet facilities on-site. Pohe Island tickets are available to pre-purchase from the above outlets or at the gate, and are priced at $10 per adult with children under 15 free.

“On Sunday, the key focus is the famous Hella Bridge prime spectator point on Swamp Road on the Wairere special stage,” says Martin. “Live commentary and excellent viewing can be enjoyed alongside food, drinks and parking provided by local community groups. The first car starts the 18.95 kilometres of the Wairere stage for the first time at 8:26 am, so it’s an early morning start for keen fans who can get their breakfast at the spectator viewing point. Don’t forget, daylight saving changes that Sunday morning, so adjust your watch! The Wairere stage runs again from 12:30 pm as part of Sunday’s eight stages. The rally map highlights other spectator points for all the day’s stages and fans may also watch at the start and finish points of each stage provided they follow the instructions of our safety marshals.”

The 2012 edition of Brother International Rally of Whangarei concludes with a finish ceremony at the Quayside Town Basin from 3pm on Sunday.

“Everyone’s welcome to share the success of all the finishing rally crews and then to enjoy some music from Jesse, Rogan and friends.”

The full entry list, current news, spectator and ticket information and rally map are all available on the event website, or follow the event on Facebook.