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Tue 09 Aug 2022

Whaanga Coast headlines New Zealand return

New Zealand’s stunning Whaanga Coast speed test returns to the FIA World Rally Championship next month to launch the opening leg of the country’s first WRC fixture in a decade.

Set amid breathtaking scenery near the North Island town of Raglan, Whaanga Coast skirts the picture postcard Tasman Sea coastline and is regarded as one of the sport’s greatest stages.

It is driven twice in Repco Rally New Zealand’s (29 September - 2 October) first full day alongside more classic Waikato region roads near Te Akau. They create a hugely challenging opening leg that comprises more than half the rally’s competitive distance.

To make life even more difficult for competitors, there will be no opportunity for service. Just a tyre change in Raglan splits the two loops of Whaanga Coast (29.07km), Te Akau South (31.02km) and Te Akau North (18.20km) during a relentless 15-hour day.

The rally itinerary was issued on Tuesday and the hub of this 11th round of the season, and New Zealand’s first WRC counter since 2012, is Auckland’s waterfront where the service park is based.

The rally kicks off on Thursday evening with a start ceremony at Pukekawa Auckland Domain followed immediately by a 1.40km super special stage within the city centre park.

After Friday’s monster leg, competitors journey north of the city on Saturday for a double run through Kaipara Hills (15.83km), Puhoi (22.63km) and Komokoriki (5.60km). A return to Auckland for service separates the loops, which add up to 88.12km.

Sunday’s finale comprises a new stage at Whitford Forest Te Maraunga Waiho (8.75km) and the purpose-built Jack’s Ridge (6.42km). Both are driven twice, with the second run of Jack’s Ridge forming the bonus points-paying Wolf Power Stage.

The quartet total 30.34km, taking the competitive distance to 276.44km across the 17 stages.

New Zealand’s smooth cambered roads have long been regarded as among the sport’s finest and clerk of the course Stuart Barnett said the rally would be a drivers’ delight.

“It is a remarkable collection of the most famous stages that have given Rally New Zealand the mantle as having the world’s best flowing gravel roads,” he added.

“Add to that an opening super special stage at Auckland Domain, the spectacular stages north and south of the city, and an exciting spectacle at Jacks Ridge, and this promises to be an event offering a range of spectacular viewing opportunities.”