Following the popular news that the Rally New Zealand will return to Auckland when it re-enters the World Rally Championship stage next year, AUTOSPORT caught up with the event's route planner Willard Martin to find out what's in store for 2010.
Q. How does it feel not running an event this year?
Willard Martin: Obviously it's not ideal. A lot of the organising team were out helping to run the Possum Bourne Memorial Rally last weekend. There were 220 competitive kilometres and 78 competitors in that one-day event on some of the stages like Whaanga Coast [run in the opposite direction to the WRC round], which will be familiar to the WRC regulars. So, we've kept our hand in this year. And it's not like we've got an exact two-year gap, either. It's more like 18 months between rounds for us; we ran in September last year and we'll be running in May next year.
Q. And are you glad to be back in Auckland?
WM: Auckland is a far larger population centre than Hamilton. Obviously we're very grateful for everything Hamilton and for the Mystery Creek facility, but we will be getting the event back to more people in Auckland.
Q. Do you know exactly where it will be based in Auckland?
WM: We're still looking at a couple of options at the moment.
Q. In previous years, particularly when the America's Cup was in town, the rally tended to get lost in Auckland. How do you stop that happening this time?
WM: That's not going to happen. We're very confident of that this time. The rally will have a big presence in the city.
Q. And what about Manukau? Will you still use that stage as the superspecial?
WM: No, we can't. The old Manukau superspecial stage is now underneath the new western loop of the motorway intersection. It was always designated to be used for that, we only had the stage on a year-on-year deal, so we knew it was coming.
Q. Will there be a super-special?
WM: We're looking at some options.
Q. Will you go north from Auckland?
WM: Yes. We'll go back up to the classic roads up there. We have our FIA Asia-Pacific Round up there [the Rally of Whangarei], but there's more than enough roads to be shared between two rallies.
Q. And what about the famous Raglan stages, like Whaanga Coast and Waitomo?
WM: Yes, we will be able to go back to those from Auckland.
Q. There have been fundamental changes to the sporting regulations for WRC, allowing longer routes and the use of remote service - a traditional part of Rally NZ. Will you return to that kind of format?
WM: We don't know about the length of the event, that's not decided yet. But we like the way the sporting regulations are going and that is the sort of event we traditionally run. We'll be looking at stages to the north and the south of Auckland.