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Sixty entries have been confirmed for the NAC Insurance International Rally of Whangarei which takes place on various Whangarei and Kaipara district roads from Friday 5 June to Sunday 7 June.
 
The event is part of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) and its subsidiary the Pacific Cup, attracting seven top-class rally drivers from New Zealand, Australia, Japan, France and India in these fields. It’s also a round of the Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) with 26 competitors in various classes. A further 24 competitors comprise the clubmans and Top Half Rally Series classes.
 
Some competitors are entered in more than one field, such as defending New Zealand rally champion Hayden Paddon, who continues his battle for this year’s NZRC title with former champion Richard Mason. Paddon is also set to score points in the Pacific Cup portion of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship. And with the event also an Asia Pacific qualifying round for the 2009 Pirelli Star Driver competition, Paddon has his name down for this as well.
 
“The class-within-a-class-within-another-category aspect of rallying can be a bit overwhelming,” smiles organising committee chairman Willard Martin. “But at the end of the day, the main honour goes to whoever wins the event outright and last year that was Christchurch’s Chris West. We’re delighted to see Westy back this year, again contesting the New Zealand Rally Championship in a Ralliart New Zealand-prepared Mitsubishi.
 
“Just as we saw last year, the top seed is Australian rally driver Cody Crocker in the Motor Image Subaru. Cody was mentored by Kiwi rally great Possum Bourne for many years and last season achieved his goal of taking out the APRC title for the third consecutive time.
 
“Japan’s Katsuhiko Taguchi, in the first of two MRF Tyres Mitsubishis, is currently the second-placed APRC entry. Taguchi’s co-driver is Australian Mark Stacey, who competed alongside Bourne during his successful APRC campaigns.”
 
Paddon is seeded third in his Paddon Direct Mitsubishi, with the second MRF Tyres driver, Gaurav Gill, from India, fourth. Another Kiwi, Emma Gilmour is fifth seed. Gilmour is Crocker’s Motor Image Subaru team-mate and is currently third in the APRC drivers’ standings. Like Paddon, Gilmour is also a NZRC competitor where she is third in the drivers’ championship behind Mason and Paddon.
 
“It’s also significant to note that seventh seed Palmerston North’s Brian Green, who has contested the Asia Pacific series for a number of years, comes to Whangarei as the top-placed driver in the Pacific Cup section,” says Martin. “And the Kiwi rally connection continues with another long-time APRC contender Jean-Louis Leyraud, from New Caledonia, driving a Subaru prepared by Pukekohe’s Possum Bourne Motorsport.”
 
The event has also attracted young Australian driver Brendon Reeves for a second year. Reeves contested the Whangarei rally last year in a bid for Pirelli Star Driver points and he’s back again this year driving Emma Gilmour's NZRC Vantage Subaru Impreza while she uses her APRC Motor Image car.  Reeves has previously been seen in a Ford Fiesta in New Zealand so there is a lot of interest in the performance of the young Australian who was the top Pirelli Star Points Scorer at Rally Queensland.
 
A Finnish driver, Jouni Arolainen, will also be contesting the event as a one-off. Forty one-year-old Arolainen competes in rallies all over the world, winning the Rally of Thailand last year. In New Zealand he’s competing in a Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX belonging to Brian Green.
 
A quick analysis of 2009 Whangarei entry list shows entrants come from six different countries, drive nine different marques of rally car and their ages range from 17 to well over 60 years of age.
 
The NAC Insurance International Rally of Whangarei has its headquarters in Whangarei’s Quayside Town Basin and takes in 280 kilometres of competitive rally stages around the Whangarei and Kaipara districts. Visit the website www.rallywhangarei.co.nz for the full entry list, spectator information, stage schedules and a free spectator map.
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