As Ben Hunt and Tony Rawstorn checked in to the final time control to win the Far North Rally in September 2019, competitors, service crews and officials immediately began planning the 2020 version of one of the most popular rallies on the New Zealand Motorsport Calendar.
The pandemic and ensuing lockdowns put paid to any hopes of running events in the following two years as cars sat in sheds and rally folk waited for the chance to hit the loud pedal once again.
Saturday 2nd July 2022 will mark 1016 days since the 2019 event and signal the return of rallying to possibly the best gravel roads in New Zealand. The Copthorne Bay of Islands Far North Rally is set to return to Northland after a most unwelcome break.
Planning for the rally is well underway with Far North District Council and Iwi consultation processes progressing well. Starting from Paihia, the draft route schedule proposes over 150 kilometres of Special Stage with 190 touring kilometres. The crews and their machines will be tested in eight Special Stages ranging in length from ten to a whopping 38 kilometres.
In addition to the Special Stages, service stops scheduled for Kaeo, Taipa, Kaitaia, Mangamuka and the final time control at Copthorne Bay of Islands in Waitangi will ensure that local communities get an opportunity to see the cars and crews up close, albeit socially distanced – of course.
Covid red light settings have not taken rally organisers’ eyes off the prize. The rally will run even if New Zealand remains at current settings with Covid-19 regulations being meticulously planned into every aspect of the event.
Marty Roestenburg, himself a three-time winner of the Far North Rally and former custodian of the title “World’s Fastest Maori”, is one of the organising committee members working with Te Tai Tokerau community interests, sponsors, and Far North District Council.
“It’s an iconic event in The North with a rich and successful history. Support from Iwi, communities and local leaders is essential to run this rally. There is still considerable mahi to be done over the next four months to ensure the success and mana of this event but initial korero has been overwhelmingly positive. “
“In these troubled times it is perhaps even more important to plan and deliver exciting, fun activities such as ours, to help relieve some stress, improve wellbeing, and financially benefit local communities along the rally route and throughout the district. “
The return of The Copthorne Bay of Islands Far North Rally to the challenging, cambered gravel roads of Te Tai Tokerau is long overdue and organisers expect the 2022 edition to signify the return of the best cars and crews to some of the best roads in Aotearoa. It’s been a calendar highlight for nearly 25 years and, this time around, not even the global pandemic is going to get in the way.