Shane van Gisbergen braced for Rally of Whangarei challenge

Shane van Gisbergen rally

Shane van Gisbergen is back in a rally car this weekend

Shane van Gisbergen is expecting a challenge when he makes his International Rally of Whangarei debut this weekend.

The two-time Bathurst 1000 winner is set to make four starts in this year’s Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC), beginning with Round 2 after the season-opener clashed with Supercars’ Albert Park event.

While he boasts a WRC2 podium in his only World Rally Championship start to date, in his native New Zealand last October, that was the culmination of a programme which saw van Gisbergen contest several events in a Skoda Fabia R5.

This time around, he will have to learn the roads and an Audi S1 AP4, although there is continuity in co-driver Glen Weston.

“It’ll be my first time on the Whangarei roads and from what I can see they have a bit of everything,” said the Red Bull Ampol Racing driver.

“It looks like a fast but also technical rally. I’m looking forward to the challenge and seeing how we go.

“I’m in a different car this season, so we will be learning that and looking to improve each rally.”

Shane van Gisbergen rally

van Gisbergen will drive an Audi AP4 in NZRC. Picture: NZRC

The International Rally of Whangarei counts towards the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, with 35 cars entered in NZRC and 11 of those in the regional title race also.

Among the dual APRC/NZRC entries are the Hyundai i20 N Rally2 of Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard.

Paddon, who dominated Round 1 of the NZRC in Otago, said, “Whangarei always has some of the best stages in New Zealand; they’re really cambered and flowing like no other.

“I think we can expect our New Zealand-based Hyundai i20 N Rally2 car to perform better on those stages compared to Otago, and hopefully everything we learned about the car in Otago and continued to develop since will help us to extract further performance gains.”

The 36-year-old returns home off the back of a second placing in Round 2 of the FIA European Rally Championship, the Rally Islas Canarias, in recent days, a result which keeps him on top of the points table.

The Whangarei event starts on Friday with shakedown testing at William Fraser Memorial Park’s Pohe Island and a ceremonial start in the evening, before the competitive action kicks off on Saturday morning, with the finish on Sunday afternoon.

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