The excitement is building as the epay Silver Fern Rally revs up to slide through the North Islands back country roads. With all of the international cars now unloaded and having their final preparations completed, the scene is set for another epic adventure.
After having been staged only in the South Island so far, it is now the North’s turn show off its challenging gravel roads, many of which have been part of Rally New Zealand and the World Rally Championship in the past. Stitching all of them together sees this marathon event cover 7 days and over 3000km, including 1000km of competitive high speed stages. And it is this opportunity to test themselves on these iconic roads that has attracted a strong international and local field of competitors.
Aimed at Historic and Classic rally cars, this year the epay Silver Fern Rally sees 50 competitors, with 17 internationals from the UK, Germany, Luxemburg, USA, Belgium and Australia lining up against 33 locals. They will be mounted in a variety of cars that stretches from the various incarnations of the mighty Ford Escort, to Porsche 911s, to Alfa Romeos, Mazdas, and Toyotas, with the odd Holden, Honda and Skoda thrown in for good measure.
Christian Kelders from Luxemburg is a former circuit racing champ who has moved over to classic rallying because of the sheer fun he has on gravel events. His co-driver Stephane Prevot is well known as a current World Rally Championship competitor, but he has decided not to compete in Spain, coming to New Zealand instead because he loves our roads and marathon rally events.
Although hailing from the USA, Rhys Millen could be claimed as a kiwi, being the son of triple NZ Rally Champion Rod Millen. Rhys brings with him a Mazda RX7 Group B car, and is looking forward to his first time competing on our gravel roads.
Of the kiwis the field boasts two former NZ champions, in the form of Brian Stokes and Neil Allport. For Allport he has stacked his team with former champion co-driver Robb Ryan. Meanwhile both the winner and runner-up from the last Silver Fern Rally have entered again, which will see Jeff Judd and Shane Murland continuing their high speed duel.
Rally Chairman Gary Smith is excited by the quality and competitiveness of the entry list. “It will provide some excellent viewing, and bring back memories for many,” he says. However the nature of rallying, where the high speed competition is on the back country roads, means that you need to be dedicated to go out and watch.
“That is why we have set up the epay zones that allow local people to come and see the cars close up and mingle with the drivers,” says epay’s NZ Country Manager Roger Smith. “There will be a commentary and driver interviews, along with the latest end of day results. epay will also have event merchandise on sale and there will be giveaways.”
It is a prime opportunity for families, local media, and anyone interested in motorsport to meet the drivers and take photos. Each car will remain in the epay zone for 10 minutes, and the zone will hold up to 10 cars at any one time as the field comes through to their end of day service. Meaning you can meet the drivers and then watch their cars being worked on.
“We have had excellent support from the local community,” says Rally Secretary Paul Smith. “From the residents on the roads through to the councils, everyone’s assistance in helping to make this endurance adventure happen has been greatly appreciated.”
The rally starts in Auckland’s Botany Town Centre on the afternoon of Saturday November 10th before heading to Rotorua on Sunday, followed by Gisborne, Napier, Feilding, Ohakune, and Taupo, finishing at Hamilton’s Claudeland’s Events Centre at 3pm on November 17th.
To see the action at this unique event, visit www.silverfernrally.co.nz to find out when and where the cars will be near you.
Roads affected – and closed include:
· Mohaka Coach
· Marine Parade from Locke to Murraee Streets