Kris Meeke will campaign a challenge of the International Rally of Whangarei later this year.
Meeke has had incredible success on the global rally stage, claiming five World Rally Championship round wins since 2014 and finishing sixth in the WRC standings last season with Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT.
“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.
He will be joined by regular British based co-driver Sebastien Marshall, the pair piloting a Mazda 2 AP4 prepared by Force Motorsport.
“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.”
The International rally of Whangarei will be headlined by Meeke resuming battle with Hayden Paddon. The duo has experienced each other on the WRC circuit but will come head to head in New Zealand for the first time.
“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,” added Meeke.
International Rally of Whangarei chairman Willard Martin commented: “To have a driver like Kris come to contest the International Rally of Whangarei is a huge coup for the event but also shows the international draw of the world famous roads the event has access to”.
“We look forward to seeing Kris line up against not only the top drivers New Zealand has to offer, but also those from the Asia-Pacific region.”
The International Rally of Whangarei is scheduled to run from May 8-10.