First road rallies
Road rallying is a form of motoring competition in which vehicles compete over public roads. The driver is often accompanied by a co-driver who provides information about the road ahead. For special-stage rallying, roads are closed to the public to allow drivers to go as fast as possible. One of the first such rallies in New Zealand was the 1966 Rally of the Pines, held on forestry roads near Taupō.
One of New Zealand’s greatest rally drivers was Aucklander Peter ‘Possum’ Bourne. (He received his nickname as a teenager, after rolling his mother’s car while trying to avoid a possum.) Bourne won numerous New Zealand, Australian and Pacific rally championships, often driving a turbocharged Subaru. In 2001 Bourne won the famous Race to the Sky hill climb in the Cardrona Valley near Wānaka. He died in a car accident on the same route two years later. His life-sized statue now overlooks the valley.
Rally of New Zealand
The Rally of New Zealand has run annually since 1969 and attracted international drivers from 1971. It was a round of the World Rally Championship in most years between 1977 and 2012. It was named Rally of the Year in 2001. In 2016 Hayden Paddon became the first New Zealander to win a round of the World Rally Championship when he won the Rally of Argentina.
Targa New Zealand rally
The annual three-round Targa New Zealand rally brings old and new cars together. The event was inspired by the Targa Florio rally, which was run in Sicily from 1906 until 1973. Modern-day Targa events take place in several countries, each with variations on the theme of sporty cars of the past competing against the clock with new models on closed roads. The New Zealand competition follows the classic rally formula of open-road touring sections between several hundred kilometres of special stages on closed sealed roads. Organised by Targa New Zealand, a member club of MotorSport New Zealand, the event has grown from an entry list of 74 cars in 1995, its first year, to as many as 200 entries.
Targa New Zealand claims to be the longest motor-sport event in Australasia held on closed sealed roads. It caters for vehicles from the 1950s to the present, ranging from affordable to very expensive purpose-built cars. They are entered in classic two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive categories, and allcomers four-wheel-drive, and further classified according to age and engine size.
Silver Fern rally
The Silver Fern rally follows a similar format to the Targa but is a gravel-road event. Started in 2006 by the Marathon Rally Car Club, it is run every second year, alternating with the Safari Rally in Africa. Entries, which number around 50, are limited to two-wheel-drive cars, with both classic and open classes. The seven-day event, which attracts both local and overseas teams, comprises 1,000 kilometres of special stages including at least one stage of 90 or more kilometres. Initially a South Island event, the Silver Fern rally was run in the North Island in 2012.
New Zealand Rally Championship
The New Zealand Rally Championship series, for production, modified and World Rally Cars (cars built to World Rally Championship specifications), was the important local rally competition in 2012. Masterton co-driver Sara Mason became the most successful female competitor in New Zealand motor sport when she won the New Zealand Rally Championship in 2012 for the third time, in a Subaru STI.