NZ Rally Championship returns to Whitianga
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The second half of the 2017 New Zealand Rally Championship is taking shape with details confirmed for the next two rounds in the Coromandel and Waitomo regions.
The championship has seen action in Otago, Northland and North Canterbury and is taking a 12-week mid-season break with Matt Summerfield (Subaru Impreza) holding a 10-point lead over Rhys Gardner (Mazda2 AP4).
Competition resumes with the seven-stage Rally of Coromandel on Saturday, August 26.
The rally is again based at Whitianga and has three gravel stages (each used twice) with a final 1.05km tarmac sprint super-stage in the town's waterways area. In total, 140.6km of competitive driving is planned.
From a 7am start from Whitianga, the rally heads north to a new 35.4km Kennedy Bay stage. The first half of the stage was used in 2016; the second half is a fresh addition and will take crews to a remote fuel- and tyre-fitting zone at Coromandel township.
The other two gravel stages are the challenging Tapu-Coroglen Rd (22.98km) and 309 Rd (11.41km).
The first run over the Coroglen stage takes crews back to the Whitianga service park at the Mercury Bay Sports Complex where the first car is expected at 10.46am.
The rally then runs west across the 309 Rd before repeating the Tapu-Coroglen stage and returning to the service park at 1.12pm. The remaining section of competition is repeat runs through the 309 Rd and Kennedy Bay stages, and the spectator stage in Whitianga, which starts at 4.06pm.
Following the Coromandel event, a Hamilton Car Club-organised rally will return to the NZ Rally Championship calendar for the first time in more than a decade, with Rally Waitomo set to run on Saturday, October 14.
Plans are for the rally to feature six special stages in the Ohura, Piopio and Waitomo areas with a competitive distance of 207km and no repeated stages. Five of the special stages are more than 30km in length and the shortest stage 16km in length.
"The gravel stages in the Waitomo district are a mix of tight and technical roads that will have drivers wrestling lock to lock, through to fast high-speed sections requiring lots of commitment," says event director Chris Ramsay.
A feature of the rally will be the 45km Te Koroha stage that doubles as the final and also longest stage of the event.
"This road has been used several times in Rally New Zealand ... and was often the decider. The event definitely won't be over until drivers have crossed the finish line of this stage," Ramsay says.
Competitors and rally fans are still waiting on details of Rally New Zealand -- set to be based out of Tauranga -- which is scheduled as the championship finale over the November 25-26 weekend.
2017 NZ Rally Championship standings (after round 3 of 6)
1 Matt Summerfield (Rangiora) Subaru Impreza WRX STI, 77pts
2 Rhys Gardner (Balclutha) Mazda2 AP4, 67pts
3 Andrew Hawkeswood (Auckland) Mazda2 AP4, 63pts
4 Graham Featherstone (Te Aroha) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo7, 51pts
5 Ben Hunt (Auckland) Subaru WRX STI, 50pts
6 Dylan Turner (Auckland) Audi S1 AP4, 47pts