Tuesday | 04 Oct 2022

View from the Service Park: New Zealand

The view from the Repco Rally New Zealand service park was fantastic. With the Hauraki Gulf on one side and one of the Southern Hemisphere’s most recognisable cityscapes on the other, how could it be anything other than truly awesome?

Vistas and views are not difficult in this part of the world. It’s one of the things the land of the long white cloud does best. And round 11 offered an embarrassment of riches when it came to the decision of which way to look first.

The best was saved until last. Arriving at the purpose-built Jacks Ridge stage – the Wolf Power Stage – south of the city on Sunday morning was an absolute treat.

Walking to the top of Hyundai Hill was a revelation. Being able to see what felt like half of New Zealand and its achingly beautiful countryside as well as Rangitoto and Waiheke islands was amazing. A moment later, it got even better as the clouds parted to reveal the top third of the Sky Tower.

How cool was this? It was impossible to imagine a more picturesque backdrop for the conclusion of the first Kiwi counter in a decade.

But if the backdrop was good, the foreground was even better.

Rally driving local Andrew Hawkeswood had taken his 400-acre facility and used it as a blank canvas to draw a magnificent stage. And he had quite literally drawn, cut and constructed the roads which Kalle Rovanperä would drive to become world champion on Sunday.

There were four jumps, banked and big sideways corners and, of course, the typically New Zealand vegetation. Jacks Ridge offered this event in microcosm.

It’s a demonstration of just how good the Sunday venue was that we’ve got this far through this column without mentioning Raglan.

Shifted from their traditional Sunday slot, the Whaanga Coast and Te Akau stages opened proceedings on a killer day one. Providing respite from those awesome stages was Raglan, New Zealand’s prime surf town.

Slotted between shops offering a wide variety of surf boards and caps demanding to be worn back-to-front came a bunch of cafés and coffee shops populated by some of the most enthusiastic locals of the season.

Rallying’s always been a big, big deal in this part of the world and judging by the reception round 11 received on last week, it’s only going to get bigger and better.

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