Otago Rally draws plenty of interest

By Catherine Pattison on Sat, 9 Dec 2017 | Latest News
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Overseas drivers, such as two-time International Otago Classic Rally winner Estonian Markko Martin pictured here, are attracted to competing in the Otago Rally because of the high-quality roads. PHOTO: PETER WHITTEN

As the competitive route for the 2018 Otago Rally takes shape, expressions of interest are coming in thick and fast from around the world.

The Dunedin-based rally will again be the New Zealand Rally Championship's opening round, and will include an Allcomers category and the globally-recognised International Otago Classic Rally, which has been won for the past two years by Estonian Markko Martin.

Rally spokesman Roger Oakley said that there will definitely be a star guest driver for the April 14 to 15 event and the committee is following ‘‘lots of leads'' to finalise next year's big name. In the meantime, the attraction of competing in this event, continues to be far-reaching, Oakley said.

‘‘The expressions are as strong as they've ever been, including lots of inquires from outside New Zealand, from seven different countries.''

Oakley said several popular international drivers who had competed in recent years had also been in touch with him about returning.

The national rally championship is ‘‘looking great'', with the new AP4 cars taking on the more traditional car brands, although Oakley has a never-achieved-before dream.

‘‘I'd love to have an international winner in each of the three classes,'' he said.

The dates do not clash with the World Rally Championship calendar, which leaves the door open for WRC driver Hayden Paddon to enter in his New Zealand-based Hyundai i20 rally car.

Next year's 280km, 17-stage rally route will be largely on smooth, public roads, due to an ongoing agreement with the Wenita forestry company that sees the event only use their roads every second year. As a result, a minimal 10% of the route will be held on forestry stages.

On day one, the rally heads south and will include the Whare Flat, Waipori Gorge, McIntosh Road andKuri Bush stages. Many past stages will also be used in different configurations. The service park will be based at Lake Waihola. 

Rally manager Norman Oakley said the longest stage of the first day will be a 42km test on fast public roads, finishing in the upper Waipori Forest.

‘‘Then on Sunday, the rally will head north to stages around Palmerston and Middlemarch, including a brand-new 14km public road stage. The rally will finish with a 35km version of the iconic Nenthorn stage,'' Norman Oakley said.

The Otago Rally received major events funding from the Dunedin City Council, for which the organisers were grateful, Roger Oakley said.

‘‘Other rally organising committees are a little bit envious of the support we get from the city.''