Former WRC star confirmed for International Rally of Whangarei
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Northern Irishman Kris Meeke will tackle the International Rally of Whangarei, to be held on May 8-10 2020.
Meeke will compete in New Zealand for the first time, on roads made famous in the local round of the World Rally Championship through the late 1990s and early 2000s. He will be joined by regular British based co-driver Sebastien Marshall.
Until this season, Meeke has been a regular in the World Rally Championship, twice finishing in the top five in the championship and claiming five WRC round wins including the fearsome Rally Finland. The 40-year old was also crowned Intercontinental Rally Champion in 2009.
The pair will contest the Whangarei event in a Force Motorsport-prepared Mazda 2 AP4 [pictured below]. The team has enjoyed many strong results with the Mazda 2 AP4 platform, including the 2017 New Zealand Rally Championship title and finishing runner up in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in 2019.
Photo / Lance Hastie
The announcement comes as New Zealand rallying welcomes the return of the World Rally Championship for 2020 after an eight year break.
The International Rally of Whangarei is the second round of both the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) and the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) and will see Meeke resume battle with New Zealand’s own World Championship driver Hayden Paddon, who recently announced the event as part of a busy 2020 schedule.
“It’s something I’ve always dreamed about, driving a rally car in New Zealand and through all my exploits in the WRC over the years, I was never involved in the series when Rally New Zealand was in the championship for one reason or another,” says Meeke.
“I grew up with the images of these famous stages in New Zealand with Juha Kankkunen, Colin McRae and Richard Burns and I always wanted to do it. So when I had some contact with Andrew Hawkeswood and he made a proposal for me to get an opportunity to drive on these roads, for me it was certainly a box I wanted to tick.
“Obviously we all know of Hayden Paddon and his exploits, certainly he’s been a top line WRC driver for a period of time. I want to go and have fun, that’s number one priority, I want to enjoy myself and experience the roads, I have no expectation to try and beat Hayden but certainly if anyone knows me by now, I go and give any challenge 100% and see where we end up.”
“To have a driver like Kris come to contest the International Rally of Whangarei is a huge coup for the event but also shows the international draw of the world famous roads the event has access to,” says International Rally of Whangarei chairman Willard Martin.
“We look forward to seeing Kris line up against not only the top drivers New Zealand has to offer, but also those from the Asia-Pacific region,” Martin adds.
The International Rally of Whangarei runs from May 8-10 and is run from New Zealand’s most northern city, Whangarei, offering up 262 kilometres of famous Northland gravel roads.