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New Zealand’s premier rally championship series will take on additional entries this season with the inclusion of open class cars to the competitive line-up.

Providing a progressive tier of competition, the five round 2009 Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship encompasses categories from two-wheel classic to FIA Group N four-wheel drive late model cars.

While only the modern Group N specification cars will be eligible for the overall Goldstar and championship title, the open-class field equally compete for event honours and category placings.

Explaining the modified championship structure, series co-ordinator Mr Laurie Brenssell says this caters for all class of car to be part of the championship scene.

“Effectively it gives options to teams who want to step in to the top-scene by allowing them to work their way up the ladder.”

“We have our premier group one cars which are today’s rock stars and the group two field that includes the open four and two-wheel drive aspiring champions along with the classic car competitors.”

“Now we have distinct tiers that come with their own championship awards that run as part of the overall New Zealand rally champion title.”

“It now has a grass-roots stage of championship competition.  Teams’ can generally use the early model Mitsubishi’s and Subaru’s that aren’t Group N compliant - the types of cars they ran at club level.  Now they can move up a league without having to spend money they can’t justify based on results they haven’t achieved.  This gives them that opportunity – with the added advantage of competing for overall honours at each of the five events this season.”

While the premier group one cars score points at all five rounds, the group two field can drop their worst result from one championship event.

“That affords the teams some leniency while keeping them in championship contention,” adds Brenssell.

With points scored from each day of competition, the top-eight place getters in each class receive bonus points.

“This allows teams who don’t complete the first day to score fresh for the second (or vice versa) – but further rewards those who complete the entire event.”

The championship season starts early April in the Hawke’s Bay, each round covers two days of competition, with championship fields that are expected to be near double previous years:  “It’s a bigger show; indicators are we’ll see similar numbers in the Group N fields, but with the open class we’re potentially doubling the number of competitors in the championship group.  Plus we’ve made the two-wheel drive open class a ‘run what you bring’ formula – which will cater for the hybrid rockets.”

Along with two hours of dedicated television time per round, the three North Island and two South Island events cover northern, southern, eastern and western spectator reaches.  The season concludes mid-September with a new champion crowned in Nelson.
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