2009 Rookie and Junior New Zealand Rally Champion, Matt Jansen, faces a raft of changes and challenges as he embarks on his third season in the New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) at the opening round - Rally Otago - this weekend, April 8-10.
The 23 year old Cantabrian took delivery of his Prodrive-built 2010 N15 model Subaru Impreza WRX just days before the February 22nd earthquake that has changed the face of Christchurch forever.
"In the overall scale of what happened we are very lucky, but when the concrete driveway at work looked more like rolling surf and the transmission [power] lines above us turned into twirling skipping ropes, you wouldn't wish it on anyone, and we know it's going to take a long time to get back to where we were," said Matt.
"So with all that to contend with, our plans for the 2011 Rally Season have been somewhat disrupted, but with our key rally elements coming through the quake relatively unscathed, we have been able to get in some test sessions in our new MITECH WELDERS Subaru."
The car is virtually brand new, having only contested a handful of tarmac rallies in Portugal last year, and one of the main changes facing Matt this year will be that the car is Left Hand Drive.
To help get used to this as quickly as possible, Matt has obtained a purpose-built Left Hand Drive recce car. So when he and Co-Driver Jason Farmer are carrying out their pre-event reconnaissance drive over the rally stages, they will be viewing the roads from the 'correct' sides of the car, which will greatly assist the accuracy of their pace note writing.
The other major change this year is that the MITECH WELDERS Subaru will be the first in the NZRC to use DMACK tyres - one of only two brands allowed to be used in the World Rally Championship in 2011.
"We are very proud to have been given the opportunity to become part of DMACK's team in this region, and providing them with as much feedback as possible, as we work to get the best out of their tyres in New Zealand conditions."
So, as if an earthquake, new cars, a new seating position, and new tyres aren't enough, this year's DriveSouth Rally Otago will be the first NZRC round since Hawkes Bay in 2003 that has run full night-time stages.
This will be brand new territory for most of the NZRC field and will certainly add a new dimension to what is always a very popular rally.
"I have never rallied at night, but am really looking forward to the opportunity to do what was common place in rallying a generation ago," said Matt. "The only thing we will be hoping for, is that the forecast wet weather does eventuate to ensure that dust is not an issue, otherwise the rally will be pretty much over competitively by 10pm on Friday night...."
So it will be a steady pace to begin with for Matt and Jason - as Matt says: "You cant win the NZRC in the first few stages, but you sure can lose it, particularly with the new bonus points structure which has put far more emphasis on finishing the entire rally, rather than just individual days, so settling in will be our initial objective.
"But in saying that, last year we never quite got ourselves onto that all-important podium pace that is our current NZRC goal, but we are confident that the various things we have done during the off season will give us the best shot at achieving that...."
Competitors in the 2011 DriveSouth Rally of Otago start from Dunedin’s central city Octagon at 7pm on Friday 8 April before completing a 270 km course spread across the region south of the city and return on Sunday afternoon for a ceremonial finish at the historic railway station from 2:30pm.

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