Esapekka Lappi sets the tone in Whangerei Shakedown

Rain and slippery conditions during today’s shakedown session for the weekend’s International Rally of Whangarei didn’t slow Finland’s Esapekka Lappi and co-driver Janne Ferm, the pair set fastest time in their MRF Tyres Skoda Fabia S2000.

The chance for teams contesting this weekend’s two-day event over roads in the Whangarei and Kaipara districts to check their car’s setup was held over the 1.25km super special stage at Whangarei’s William Fraser Memorial Park on Pohe Island.

Completing the course in a fastest time of 1min02.9sec, Lappi’s team-mate Gaurav Gill in the second MRF Tyres Skoda was second fastest with a time of 1min03.5sec while young Kiwi competitor Sloan Cox was third fastest with a time of 1min04.3sec. Lappi, completed five runs while many others, including Hayden Paddon, opted to do one quick check.

The opening round for the 2013 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship and second round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, today’s conditions are expected to be an extreme according to the weekend’s forecast. Today’s heavy rain is predicted to reduce to showery spells for the remainder of the weekend, leaving much of the region’s 16 special stages in prime condition for the weekend’s action.

From 3:30pm this afternoon drivers will be in Whangarei’s Cameron Street Mall for an autograph session before the cultural welcome and ceremonial start that begins from 4:30pm. All the competing crews and cars take part before being parked for the night ahead of Saturday’s action. Leaving Whangarei from 8am the route takes competitors over roads around Parahi in the south-west, Waipu Caves and Brooks – including the ‘Hella’ jump on Swamp Rd. They return to Whangarei for the brand new 1.25km Pohe Island ‘Super Special’ stage before a 20minute service break at the Town Basin. The route is repeated in the afternoon with the cars then parked overnight following the service break.

Sunday begins at 6:55am and heads south through Waipu Gorge and on to Marohemo and Batley road, visiting Paparoa and Cassidy road before returning to Whangarei for a 20 minute service break. The teams repeat the stages in the early afternoon, returning to the Quayside Town Basin for a ceremonial finish from 3:15pm.

Spectators can watch for free at the start, finish and Quayside Town Basin service areas with access to rural viewing points, including the Pohe Island ‘Super Special’ stage costing just $10 per adult. Children under the age of 15 are free with a paying adult and rural paddock parking is available for a gold coin donation. A share of all spectator ticket revenue goes to the local community groups that help run the spectator viewing areas.

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