The announcement last week from MotorSport NZ (New Zealand Rally competitors to get more international opportunities than ever in 2020) presents a unique opportunity for Kiwi rally drivers to gain a FIA accredited championship title.
In 2019, the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship changed its format away from a series of events that make up the championship. Competing numbers had been consistently low for a number of years and the championship was under-going a slow death.
The make-up for 2019 suddenly presented teams with a more affordable option without the logistics of competing in several different countries as previous APRCs’ had required.
Asia-Pacific region was split in two (Asia and Pacific). Each area would have its own qualifying rounds as well as competing for their region’s Cup.
Kiwi and Australian competitors need only to enter two qualifying rounds of the FIA Pacific Cup, with the choice of two events either in NZ or Australia. Entry automatically gives competitors eligibility to compete in the winner-take-all finale of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC). Also, you do not have to finish the events you have entered.
The FIA’s policy allows the rules of the National Sporting Authority (ASN) meaning competitors with vehicles eligible for the New Zealand Rally Championship (both two and four-wheel drive), that comply with FIA safety standards and an equivalence formula that is likely to be very similar to the NZRC regulations will be eligible to compete.
So what is the opportunity?
Kiwi drivers have two international events on their home soil for qualifying – Rally Otago and Rally Whangarei.
The APRC final, a winner-takes-all, is scheduled for Australia in November 2020 where eligible competitors from the Asia and Pacific Cup regions will fight for the FIA APRC championship title.
At this stage it has been announced that Coffs Coast will host the event but Talkmotorsport understands that nothing has been signed (and sealed) and with the current state of bush fires throughout Australia, the priorities of local communities and councils are otherwise engaged and not on planning for the event. What we do know is that the final will be in Australia.
It looks like this opportunity for Kiwi drivers to compete for the FIA APRC title in Australasia will come about every two years with the finale alternating between the Asia and Pacific regions.
Last year Kiwis Mike Young along with Jack and Andrew Hawkeswood traveled to China for the APRC final with Andrew Hawkeswood finishing in second place.
Conditions in Coffs Harbour in 2020 should be a lot more familiar to New Zealand competitors although the logistics of getting a car and equipment there will not be straight forward given the distance of the area from a major port.