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Sixty-three entries have been confirmed for the NAC Insurance Hella International Rally of Whangarei which takes place in Whangarei and on various Northland and Kaipara District roads from Friday 6 June to Sunday 8 June.

The event is part of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), attracting top-class rally drivers from Australia, Japan, New Caledonia, Indonesia and India. It sets up a classic best of the Aussies vs. best of the Kiwis battle, as competitors in the Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship, such as Richard Mason, Hayden Paddon and Chris West, also contend in the popular Whangarei event.

Top seed is Australian driver Cody Crocker in the Motor Image Team Subaru. Mentored by Kiwi rally great Possum Bourne for many years, Crocker is aiming to take out the APRC title for the third consecutive season this year, but arrives in Whangarei only third on the 2008 points’ table. Crocker’s co-driver is Ben Atkinson, brother of Chris who competes in the World Rally Championship for Subaru.

At the top of the APRC leader-board currently is another Australian, Dean Herridge, who has had consistent results in the first two rounds – New Caledonia and Canberra – to overtake Japan’s Katsuhiko Taguchi and his well-known Australian co-driver Mark Stacey who won the opening round and now hold second place overall.

Taguchi’s MRF Tyres team-mates include Australian Scott Pedder and India’s Gaurav Gill, who has another well-known Australian co-driver, Glenn Macneall, alongside him. Herridge’s CUSCO Racing team-mates include two other top-class Japanese drivers Hiroshi Yanagisawa and Yuya Sumiyama. The fourth Japanese driver in the field is Takuma Kamada racing for Subaru Team Arai.

Three French drivers add to the international flavour; the vastly-experienced Jean-Louis Leyraud and Patrick Christian are in the Team New Caledonia Mitsubishis with Patrick Yanai competing in his privately-entered Mitsubishi. Indonesia’s Rifat Sungkar is Crocker’s team-mate in the Motor Image Subaru Team, while Brian Green is the sole New Zealander in the APRC field. A long-time APRC competitor, the Palmerston North local is fourth overall heading to Whangarei.

With Richard Mason, Hayden Paddon and Stewart Taylor heading the Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship points’ table coming into Whangarei, the battle for victory is sure to be super-heated, especially as the talented young Paddon won the Whangarei event outright last year.

The 63-strong field is completed by the combined Kiwi 2 and Clubmans class with 31 entrants contesting day one of Rally Whangarei to earn points towards the Fram North Island Rally Series and the newly-released La Série de Rallye.

The NAC Insurance Hella International Rally of Whangarei takes place from Friday 6 June to Sunday 8 June on various Northland and Kaipara District roads, with rally headquarters in Whangarei’s Quayside Town Basin.

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