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World Rally Chances Attracts Kiwi Entrants

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

24 June 2008 - Five ambitious New Zealand rally drivers have applied for a chance to take on the world's best Production World Rally Championship (P-WRC) teams in the August running of Repco Rally New Zealand.

Rally New Zealand, as the organisation behind the event, provides two scholarships to help foster opportunities for New Zealand rally drivers on the world stage.

Each scholarship comprises a fully-paid wildcard entry into the P-WRC class of the New Zealand round of the World Rally Championship and a specially-allocated service area for the driver's team within the P-WRC service park. The entry fee alone is worth "3,000 (nearly $NZ 6,000).

The service park location offers important opportunities our rising stars to make themselves better known to P-WRC teams and talent scouts, says Chris Carr, chairman of Repco Rally New Zealand.

"Drivers running in the P-WRC are frequently signed for the full FIA World Rally Championship, so this is a very important opportunity for our young drivers to get themselves known by world rally teams. You can't really place a dollar value on having this chance to mix and mingle with teams already racing at world championship level," says Carr.

"A number of significant people in the sport, such as Marc de Jong, the director of commercial development for the P-WRC, watch what's going on in New Zealand's rally scene," adds Carr. "The awareness of Kiwi rallying talent goes back to the days of Possum Bourne, and earlier, and although we don't currently have a Kiwi of Possum's calibre competing on the world stage, we know several key people keep an eye on New Zealand's rising stars. So scholarships such as this provide another avenue for our young drivers to prove themselves and hopefully forge a career in world rallying."

While any New Zealand driver running an eligible car can enter Repco Rally New Zealand, as wildcard entries in the P-WRC class the two scholarship winners will be seeded amongst the P-WRC runners, not the New Zealand Rally Championship entrants.

"This means they start much further up the running order," explains Carr. "It offers them a chance to really test themselves against world-class competitors in equivalent machinery."

This year's applicants for the Rally New Zealand scholarship are:  Chris West, age 33, lives in Christchurch and was the 2004 New Zealand rally champion. West won the Rally New Zealand scholarship in 2006 and has returned to top-level local competition this year with the Andrew Simms Mitsubishi Rally Team;  Stewart Taylor, age 33, lives in Havelock North and has been a top-runner in the New Zealand Rally Championship for the past two years in a Mitsubishi;  Hayden Paddon, age 21, is from Geraldine and attracted significant interest when he won the Hella International Rally of Whangarei outright in 2007; this event is part of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship. In June this year Paddon was second outright in Whangarei, finishing just behind West and ahead of defending Asia Pacific rally champion Cody Crocker;  Andre Meier, age 18, is from Cambridge. A rookie in the New Zealand Rally Championship, Meier is gathering experience with every outing in his ex-Richard Mason Subaru.  Sloan Cox, age 16, is from Rotorua and competes with older sister Tarryn as his co-driver. Tackling his first full season in the New Zealand Rally Championship, Cox has exhibited a high standard of professionalism both on and off the rally stages.

Previous scholarship winners include West and Paddon in earlier years, as well as former New Zealand rally champion Richard Mason who, in 2006, went on to finish in the top ten overall and second in the P-WRC class.

The board of Rally New Zealand selects the scholarship winners, says Carr. "We use a number of criteria to assess who we believe would best benefit from the opportunity afforded by the chance to test themselves against the P-WRC teams."

This year's scholarship winners will be announced at a Repco Rally New Zealand media day at Mystery Creek on 29 June.

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