There was certainly a sense of excitement when NZ Rally announced that round five of the 2015 New Zealand Rally Championships was coming back to Whitianga and the Mercury Bay for the second consecutive year.
From right to left: David Holder, Emma Gilmour, Jason Farmer, Lane Heenan, Adina Holder, Lindsay Tressler. Image by David Hedge.
From the very start as Rally New Zealand began planning the Goldrush Rally of Coromandel it promised to be another year of exciting rally action right here in Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula. And well, it didn’t disappoint. The Whitianga community embraced the return of the rally, and in return the rally teams embraced the town back.
Rally teams enjoy activities on the water in Mercury Bay, Coromandel
It was undoubtedly a more sedate day on Sunday for Rally New Zealand crews after race day on Saturday, but it still came with its own set of excitement and thrills. All About Whitianga's Business Development Manager Tracey Denize teamed up with local tourism operators in Whitianga and the Mercury Bay to provide rally drivers with a taste of some local scenic action adventures.
As it happened, the Sunday morning weather could not have been more perfect for the day ahead. When local Skipper Ken Hindmarsh from Cathedral Cove Cruises pulled away from a picturesque Whitianga Wharf there were some very big smiles on the Rally NZ crews faces. Most of the Rally NZ crew members that were aboard had never been on the water in the Mercury Bay before, and some had never been to Whitianga before. The experience for the day showcased the fantastic highlights and activities on the water that are on offer to explore in and around Whitianga and the Mercury Bay on the Coromandel Peninsula.
Watch the video
The crews had the opportunity to cruise around Mercury Bay and enjoy the scenery of Shakespeare Cliff, Cooks Beach, Cathedral Cove and Whanganui a Hei Marine Reserve, Champagne Bay and Orua Cave. Of course a visit to the Mercury Bay is not complete without a kayak tour at stunning Cathedral Cove. The "off road" setting at Cathedral Cove, Coromandel encouraged a few NZ Rally crew rivalries when they were hosted by Mike Grogan and the team at Cathedral Cove Kayaks for a kayaking paddle challenge. On the return to Whitianga wharf a pod of dolphins was spotted to round off a great day of rest and relaxation post Goldrush Rally of Coromandel.
From the fun Whitianga street party on the Friday prior to racing, to race day and a bit of post racing scenic adventure on the Sunday, it really seems that Rally NZ and Whitianga is a perfect match all round.
New Zealand Rally Crews, Race Day and the Goldrush Rally of Coromandel Results
A total of 56 crews across New Zealand from Whangarei to Dunedin (with one team hosting an Australian co-driver) came to Whitianga to compete in the nine special stages of the rally. Each Coromandel rally stage had its own particular challenge, and provided plenty of drama for many of the crews including local Alex Kelsey who encountered an off-road excursion.
The order of the Coromandel Rally 2015 race day and stages included:
Ernslaw 1, 309 Road, Service A (Mercury Bay Multi Sport Park), Tapu-Coroglen 1, Kelsey’s Castle Rock 1, Service B (Mercury Bay Multi Sport Park), Tapu-Coroglen 2, Kelsey’s Castle Rock 2, Whitianga Super Special 1 (Joan Gaskell Drive), Ernslaw 2, Whitianga Super special 2 (Joan Gaskell Drive)
Whitianga locals and visitors to the Coromandel turned out in high numbers to enjoy the rally first hand. The official prime spectator spot was on the 309 Road stage at Waiau, but many people also enjoyed some great viewing across many of the stages.
Those who weren’t able to get to the 309 Road, Tapu-Coroglen or the Kelsey’s Castle Rock stages of the rally certainly didn’t miss out. Many spectators caught up with the NZ Rally action located in the centre of the Whitianga town ship. The Mercury Bay Multi Sport Park and Whitianga Super Special stage one and two on Joan Gaskell Drive provided key central areas in Whitianga where spectators came to view the action up close and personal.
Mercury Bay Multi Sport Park provided the perfect spot as Rally Head Quarters and service area for crews. Fans of the rally, and those who were just plain curious had the opportunity to view rally cars as they came in for servicing after the 309 Raod and Kelsey’s Castle Rock legs of the rally. As rally drivers caught a quick bite to eat during servicing rally fans mixed and mingled with the crews and their families to get the low down and offer their support.
The Whitianga Super Special stages one and two on Joan Gaskell Drive provided a central vantage point to see the racing action. Hundreds of spectators took to the berms for prime viewing positions of the NZ Rally racing crews as they hurtled down Joan Gaskell Drive and back across the bridge. For two fantastic stages, this normally sedate main road into town was transformed into an adrenalin road into town.
Subaru driver Ben Hunt, from Nelson, confidently beat off the competition over the 132 kilometres of the nine special stages of the Coromandel Rally. Hunt won by 37.8 seconds over his closest competition Mitsubishi driver Phil Campbell from Tauranga. This is Hunt’s third successive round win and puts him in line for his first national rally.
“This is a great result for our team and exactly what we needed for the championship. I don’t think we will be getting much sleep before Rally Wairarapa so we can make sure the car is 100% reliable for the final,” commented Hunt at the Goldrush Rally of Coromandel finish.
The 2015 Brian Green Property Group NZ Rally Championship points after round five Coromandel Goldrush Rally are as follows:
- Ben Hunt (Nelson- Subaru) 130 points
- Phil Campbell (Tauranga – Mitsubishi) 106
- Lance Williams (Te Aroha – Subaru) 88
- Matt Summerfield (Rangiora – Subaru) 84
- Graham Featherstone (Te Aroha – Mitsubishi) 73
Drivers now have a short break to prepare for the final round of Rally NZ being held in the Wairarapa on Saturday 3rd October.