International Rally of Whangarei

Last weekend Paul and I went to photograph the 2013 International Rally of Whangarei in association with Brian Green properties. The weather forecast didn’t look good so we packed and prepared for a wet few days.

During the last event at Wade Road, my equipment had been soaked through to the point the lens stopped working. I knew I had to find some protection for it. I ordered a storm jacket and prayed it would arrive in time, but unfortunately it didn’t.

On Friday we decided to drive a few of the stages to have a good look for some points to shoot from. I have to say the stage we drove through were awesome roads. Winding their way through some spectacular scenery, they certainly looked challenging and very fast in places.

Skoda S2000
Skoda S2000

After driving the Waipu Caves Road stage it was time to head into town for the shakedown at the Pohe Island Super Special Stage. We arrived just in time and just managed to get a spot before the first car came roaring through. It was one of the Skoda S2000’s. What an awesome car. It sounds great and looked like it was handling really well. It was very cool to see it being driven hard.

There were only a few of the cars out at the shakedown and conditions were pretty good for getting shots of mud flying. Andrew Hawkeswood was having fun in his Audi, a car I never tire of seeing or hearing. There always seems to be approval from spectators as he slides into corners. Most enjoyable to watch. Another car that looked and sounded really good was Emma Gilmour’s Suzuki Swift.

Hayden Paddon at the ceramonial start
Hayden Paddon at the ceremonial start

After shakedown, we went along to the ceremonial start in the heart of Whangarei town. It’s a great opportunity for the fans to see the cars up close and personal and to perhaps meet their favourite drivers. Paul picked a spot to photograph the start from while I walked around  introducing myself to people and meeting old friends. I managed to find Hayden Paddon and thanked him personally for giving his time to feature as one of our “meet the drivers”. I think it’s all too easy to forget just how busy drivers are and the pressures and commitments they have at events like this, so I kept it short. It was a pleasure to catch up with you all.

During all of this I had mentioned on Facebook about the poor weather, and Dee posted that my storm jacket had arrived that morning – typical! All was not lost though…thanks to social media, Donald Welsh heard about the problem and very kindly offered to bring the storm jacket up to Whangarei with him as he was heading up Friday night. Thanks so much Donald. I really appreciated your help, even if it did look a bit suspect delivering a parcel at the side of a road in total darkness! Thank you!

K9 supporter gets best view
K9 supporter gets best view

Saturday morning was an early start. We wanted to shoot one of the early stages to try and cover off as many of the drivers as possible. We settled on SS2 (Hella Bridge). It was obvious that we would be shooting toward the sun at this time of day but decided to try it. Luckily there was some pretty heavy cloud cover which helped, but conditions for shooting weren’t ideal. The first cars through were the Skodas, and I reckon they took the bridge pretty well. Andrew Hawkeswood flew over the bridge landing on his rear wheels, completely different to every other car, but totally spectacular to watch. The spectators in the Hella area all cheered – it was definitely a real crowd pleaser. Even the local dog who had his chair in prime location to watch the cars seemed to enjoy it.

I was mentally checking off the drivers as they came through, and before long it became clear that Dave Holder was missing. As soon as I found signal on my cellphone I logged into Chrissport to check what happened. He was listed as retired due to mechanical (permanent). A short while later I heard he had actually gone off the road, and it was believed everyone was OK. I hoped this was the case. Much later on I found out just how bad his off had been, dropping down a steep bank 30m’s and landing the car on its roof! Thank fully both Dave and Josh were OK. It sounded like they were going really well upto that point. To read what happed and see photos etc check out their Facebook page hererecovery

The weather was completely changeable and unpredictable. Hot and sunny one minute and torrential rain the next. I reckon we just about had all 4 seasons in one day!  At the Super Special Stage late Saturday afternoon we bumped into Christopher and Lauren who were filming the event.  They mentioned they filmed rallies around NZ so I asked if they wouldn’t mind sharing the footage here on this site, which they were more than happy to do.  Check out the footage from CRallyMedia below (its the first one – the other two were static cameras which I placed at Hella Bridge, and nowhere near as good as CRallyMedia’s footage).

Day one came to a close with Esapekka Lappi leading his team mate in the Skoda S2000 with Ben Hunt in 3rd in his Subaru. There was quite a battle going on between Josh Marston and Phil Campbell in their R2 Fiestas. After a whole days rallying Josh was leading by only 0.8secs!

After a long day it was time to head back to where we were staying and find something to eat. After a short drive we came into Waipu. Now to me this is a very small town in what appears to be the middle of nowhere, yet we found the Pizza Barn. What a really neat pub this was. Great service, and great food at reasonable prices. I couldn’t believe how busy it was either. We had a 30/40min wait for a table (not a problem as we propped the bar up enjoying a cold beer or two). There must have been over 100 people inside and the atmosphere was pumping. Will definitely come back here!

Brian Green and Fleur Pedersen
Brian Green and Fleur Pedersen

Once we finally got back to the cabin, it was time to start downloading the images from the day and charge batteries for another days shooting. During this time I made a huge mistake and formatted the wrong card and lost ALL my images from Hella Bridge. I couldn’t believe what I’d done – what a total muppet!! After calming down I just accepted what I’d done and headed to bed. I wasn’t asleep long before the niggling started, so I got up around 03:30 and spent the rest of the night downloading card recovery software and trying to recover the files.

Sunday was another early start (not a problem for me as I’ve been up most of the night anyway) and the two of us set off for the first Special Stage of the day. Once again I’d managed to pick a corner where the sun was going to rise in the wrong place. As this was my first time in Whangarei I had already accepted I’d make mistakes and choose the wrong spots occasionally. I did my best at this corner and actually got some shots I really like which was a bonus. We shot off and continued shooting at various locations, but the loss of the previous days files was on my mind all the time. It was no good, I was going to have to go back to Hella bridge which was towards the end of the event and try again just in case my images couldn’t be recovered.

PoliceAfter arriving early at Hella bridge we were able to have a chat to the volunteers who were manning that point. It was great to catch up with these helpers, who without, there wouldn’t be a rally. At least this time the sun was in a much better position so I set up and waited. There was about 20/25 mins to wait for the first car, and during this time it rained, not just a little shower either, it chucked it down with real big rain drops. Both I and the cameraman beside me got soaked through. These conditions must have been making it tough for the drivers!

The cars took the bridge a lot differently to the day before. Some still attacked it and jumped it really well, and others were clearly nursing their cars home and didn’t want to have an issue by jumping too hard. A couple of drivers that looked great jumping it were Sloan Cox and Graham Featherstone, although Graham’s looked like it was a hard landing. Of course, Andrew Hawkeswood hit pretty hard again, only this time his car was showing signs of a hard rally with parts of his front bodywork missing.

We decided to stay put at the bridge and shoot every car.  It did mean that we missed the finish which was a shame but I do like to try and support the club guys at the rear of the field.

Full results for the rally can be found here

I had an awesome time at Whangarei and hope I will be there to cover it again next year. Well done to the organisers and volunteers who made the event run like clockwork.

The next event I will be at will be Rally Xtreme Hawkes Bay on June 2nd. Look forward to seeing you there



 From CRallyMedia



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