WRC star Kris Meeke has confirmed plans to partake in this year’s International Rally of Whangarei, which is to be held on May 8-10.
Meeke will compete in New Zealand for the first time, on roads used as part of the New Zealand round of the World Rally Championship through the late 1990s and early 2000s. He will be joined by British-based co-driver Sebastian Marshall – who used to partner Hayden Paddon at Hyundai.
The pair will contest the Whangarei event in a Force Motorsport-prepared Mzada 2 AP4. The team has enjoyed success with the Mazda 2 AP4 platform, including the 2017 New Zealand Rally Championship title and finishing runner-up in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship last year.
The International Rally of Whangarei will act as the second round of both the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship and the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship. Meeke will seek to stop local hero Hayden Paddon from taking his third successive International Rally of Whangarei victory – having won the event in 2018 and 2019.
“It’s something I’ve always dreamed about, driving a rally car in New Zealand and through all my exploits in the WRC over the years, I was never involved in the series when Rally New Zealand was in the championship for one reason or another,”says Meeke.
“I grew up with the images of these famous stages in New Zealand with Juha Kankkunen, Colin McRae and Richard Burns and I always wanted to do it. So when I had some contact with Andrew Hawkeswood and he made a proposal for me to get an opportunity to drive on these roads, for me it was certainly a box I wanted to tick.
“Obviously we all know of Hayden Paddon and his exploits, certainly he’s been a top line WRC driver for a period of time. I want to go and have fun, that’s number one priority, I want to enjoy myself and experience the roads, I have no expectation to try and beat Hayden but certainly if anyone knows me by now, I go and give any challenge 100% and see where we end up.”