Storm damage to the Waitomo stage has forced organisers of the latest round of the World Rally Championship in New Zealand to amend the route for the opening leg of the event on Friday [29 September].

The damage caused by heavy rain at the end of July, has left clerk of the course Willard Martin to work closely with roading engineers in the four districts that will host stages of the event, but damage to the longest stage on the rally - the 43.98km run through Waitomo - has forced a change to the schedule to the opening day.

"We've been out assessing each and every one of the rally stages in the Otorohanga, Waitomo, Raglan and Franklin Districts over the past few weeks," Martin explained. "Naturally, access for residents takes priority on any roads that require repairs, but we do work closely with councils to ensure the successful running of our event.

"Eighty metres of road were lost [in Waitomo] when a large area of farm land slumped about 50 metres. The Waitomo Council has been able to construct a temporary road through this section to provide access for local farmers and we are very thankful for their considerable efforts. The Waitomo stage will now be run as two stages, part one up to the landslide - a distance of 25.85 km - and part two starting on the other side for a distance of 17.36 km."

Additional start and finish timing control points will be created, detailed road books for competitors updated and the change accommodated in event's results system, with the stages being reclassified as a result.

"As far as our internal systems are concerned, SS2 Castrol Waitomo will now be SS2.1 and SS2.2 and SS4 Castrol Waitomo will now be SS4.1 and SS4.2," Martin continued. "However the official results system will show consecutive stage numbering with the regular stage number in brackets.

"Many other roads are very soft from the rain and we are continuing to assess the situation."

Amended Rally New Zealand schedule:

Friday 29 August:

SS1 Pirongia West 1
SS2.1 Waitomo 1 part 1
SS2.2 Waitomo 1 part 2
SS3 Pirongia West 2
SS4.1 Waitomo 2 part 1
SS4.2 Waitomo 2 part 2
SS5 Mystery Creek 1

Saturday 30 August:

SS6 Port Waikato
SS7 Possum
SS8 Franklin
SS9 Mystery Creek 2
SS10 Te Akau South
SS11 Te Akau North

Sunday 31 August:

SS12 Te Hutewai 1
SS13 Whaanga Coast 1
SS14 Te Hutewai 2
SS15 Whaanga Coast 2
SS16 Mystery Creek 3