Rally New Zealand has confirmed it will shift its base from Hamilton and back to Auckland for next year's event.
Rally New Zealand, not included in this year's WRC due to the FIA's rotation policy for events, has been hosted in Hamilton for the last three years. During its time in New Zealand's fifth-largest city, there has been an increased feeling the event was not receiving the domestic or international recognition it would in the country's biggest population center.
The agreement, which runs for the next three editions of Rally New Zealand, will take the event back into the city of Auckland – although the super-special stage and possibly the service park are expected to run out of the new, purpose-built motorsport facility at Hamilton Downs, south of the city.
"We're delighted to bring Rally New Zealand back to Auckland with the largest population base in the country," said Chris Carr, chairman of the rally organization.
"Rally New Zealand is one of the WRC drivers' most popular rallies. They absolutely love driving on New Zealand roads – just as we have a great heritage of getting out and enjoying their top level skills among our beautiful scenery. With the move back to Auckland, we have the opportunity to take the rally route both north and south of our largest city, offering excellent spectator viewing."
It is hoped the shift back to Auckland will help Rally New Zealand secure a regular slot on the WRC calendar, although Carr admitted he was increasingly resigned to a two-year gap from next May's event.
"With the way the WRC calendar is currently scheduled, after 2010, the next Rally New Zealand will be in Auckland in 2012," said Carr. "However, we are working hard to put New Zealand back onto the WRC calendar on an annual basis.
"We note that Rally Finland has just signed a five-year deal with the WRC promoters, ISC, to again run an annual event. Like Rally New Zealand, Rally Finland was affected by the FIA decision to go to an alternating biennial schedule between rallies around the world."
Rally New Zealand runs entirely on the North Island from May 6-9 next year.