The New Zealand government has stepped in to try and help Rally New Zealand organizers to retain their place on the World Rally Championship calendar beyond the end of this season.
A quarter of a million dollars has come from the Wellington government offices of the Major Events Development Fund to make sure May's 40th running of Rally New Zealand goes well – and maintains the pressure on WRC promoter North One Sport to keep the Auckland-based event on the schedule for 2011.
North One Sport's initial calendar included New Zealand as a reserve event, but that was rejected by the World Motor Sport Council earlier this month, raising Kiwi hopes of a reprieve when the FIA announces the calendar – following a three-way debate between FIA president Jean Todt, North One Sport and WRC Commission president Morrie Chandler – on April 16.
Chris Carr, chairman of Rally New Zealand, said: "We are grateful to Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee and others for their consideration of the situation where New Zealand's longest-running world championship event was at risk.
"With today's announcement, we extend our thanks to Mr Brownlee and Major Events Development Fund officials for their confirmation of the funding. We will apply these funds to making the 2010 event even stronger and more attractive to the worldwide audience of more than 50 million television viewers expected to watch Rally New Zealand when it takes place in Auckland from May 6-9 this year."
Carr says that while the funding will help the organization develop and enhance its case to stay on the FIA WRC calendar, there is still no guarantee that WRC promoters North One Sport will confirm Rally New Zealand as a round of the global series in 2011 or in future years.
"The funding will definitely help, but ultimately the decision is up to the WRC's commercial promoters North One Sport and the FIA," he acknowledged. "The best thing New Zealanders can do to help us secure Rally New Zealand as a round of the World Rally Championship in the future is get out and watch the event this year. Come along, be a spectator at one of the many free and paid spectator vantage points, and show the WRC promoters that we're passionate about this iconic event."
This year, Rally New Zealand is based in Auckland with several key elements located within the city's boundaries, such as the start ceremony at Viaduct Harbour, the service park on Queens Wharf and the rally headquarters at SkyCity Auckland.
The rally route takes competitors both north and south of the city – Friday's route runs through the Whangarei and Kaipara districts, while Saturday and Sunday's stages are in the Franklin, North Waikato and Raglan districts.