The start of the Wangari International Rally

Todd Bowden in his Ford Fiesta R5 Mark II at the Whangarei International Rally. Photo/Michael Cunningham

Northland Roads became this week’s race tracks at the Whangarei International Rally.

The 2022 Wangari Rally doubles as round of the 2022 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally
Championship and the second round of the New Zealand Rally Championship 2022.

The event runs over three days, from May 13 to May 15, with the Pohe Island Super Special Stage lighting up on Friday the 13th.

Shakedown on Pohe Island kicked off at 1 p.m. Friday with lucky guests the chance to take the co-driver’s seat for a high-speed blast around the stage.

Emma Gilmore wears a Suzuki Swift AP4 at the Whangarei International Rally, Bohe Island, Shakedon Theatre.  Photo/Michael Cunningham
Emma Gilmore wears a Suzuki Swift AP4 at the Whangarei International Rally, Bohe Island, Shakedon Theatre. Photo/Michael Cunningham

North Lawyer reporter Jaime Leith rode into the passenger seat with driver Duncan McCrosty the third time he’s been to the event.

“I did it 10 years ago in my old classic rally car, and then I did it last year in this thing,” McCrosty said.

Northern Advocate reporter Jaime Leith is hunted by Duncan McCrosty in his Mazda 2AP4.  Photos / Jaime Leith
Northern Advocate reporter Jaime Leith is hunted by Duncan McCrosty in his Mazda 2AP4. Photos / Jaime Leith

Kiwi star Hayden Paddon is racing to defend his title at the Wangari International Rally this weekend, after winning last year’s event.

Paddon is heading for his eighth title in Whangarei while also making sure to support a well-deserved local with his Paddon project.

Star driver Hayden Paddon in his Hyundai i20 AP4.  Photo/Michael Cunningham
Star driver Hayden Paddon in his Hyundai i20 AP4. Photo/Michael Cunningham

Start your engines

About 1,000 spectators gathered on and below Te Matau or Buhi Bridge to catch a glimpse of the event on Friday night.

All cars lined up on the bridge to start the celebration, which was inaugurated by Whangarei Mayor Sheryl May.

Drivers and their colleagues signed autographs for fans while the petrol heads had the opportunity to get close to the cars.

The event is missing international drivers and cars again this year due to the ongoing pandemic, but the crowds will still see a large number of races.

Kiwi rally drivers will race to reverse the numbers from the last car to the first car.

The new base on Pohe Island has been redeveloped to provide more space, with ENEOS Service Park and HQ close to each other.

Darren Pace holds the barrier at the Whangarei International Rally.  Photo/Michael Cunningham
Darren Pace holds the barrier at the Whangarei International Rally. Photo/Michael Cunningham

Darren Pace, 50, volunteered to rally all weekend after falling in love with it last year.

“I came last year to see him on the island and decided I would volunteer this year.”

Pace has lived in Northland for two and a half years, but has followed rally racing since living in the UK.

“I am happy to see Emma because I follow McLaren.”

Emma Gilmore was announced as the first female McLaren Racing driver in November 2021.

“My son roots Hayden because he met Hayden last year, and he goes, this is my soulmate.”

New local Andrew Brown watches the purge on Bohe Island.  Photo/Michael Cunningham
New local Andrew Brown watches the purge on Bohe Island. Photo/Michael Cunningham

Andrew Brown, 61, has bought tickets for the rally and is looking forward to watching it tonight.

Brown moved to Whangarei just two months ago and walked to the bridge to watch the extortionate after hearing the car noises from his boat.

“It’s amazing that technology is so fast.

“I’ve been sending videos to my kids in the South, they’re jealous.”

Kevin Hill stops to watch the Wangari International Rally on the Te Matau-a-Buhi Bridge.  Photo/Michael Cunningham
Kevin Hill stops to watch the Wangari International Rally on the Te Matau-a-Buhi Bridge. Photo/Michael Cunningham

Kevin Hill, 70, didn’t realize the pair was working until he realized the road he was riding on was blocked.

“I saw the dust and thought I’d see what happens.”

Car-watching was a great break before the pub for Hill, who was happy to see the action back in town.

“It’s good to see something happen in Whangarei.”

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