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The flat-out roads of Nelson will decide this weekend’s 2007 Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship.
 
Concluding a six-month journey around New Zealand, it will come down to the nine forestry based stages in the 0800 Boxman Rally of Nelson that will settle the ranking on Sunday, September 30.
 
Included in  the 26-strong lineup will be Californian Ken Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino in their Subaru Impreza. With the American back for his fourth New Zealand event , the event will run under full ‘international’ status.
 
With much of the 185km long competition event having enjoyed a mild winter, the logging roads have been described as like ‘swept concrete and very dusty’.  This will create one significant issue for the drivers – visibility, unless rain or wind prevail.  The only real benefactor will be championship leader Sam Murray, who will start as first car on the road. Currently with a twenty point advantage, the Palmerston North driver needs only to place sixth or better in his Subaru to claim his first overall Goldstar title.
 
An event previously favoured by Mitsubishis, second placed Hayden Paddon (Lancer EVO 8) says he and co-driver John Kennard are all or nothing this weekend:

“We are just going to go hard – we’ve got nothing to lose and everything we can gain.  We’re going for the (rally) win and hope that helps our championship.  Whatever Sam does is up to him – the big thing is all the others will be quick, so we’ll have our work cut out for us, but we haven’t given up hope yet, anyway.”
 
Having won the event in 2006, Rotorua’s Dean Sumner (Lancer EVO 9) also has the flat-out game plan:

“Nelson has always been good to us; I’ve got nothing to lose – everything to gain. Just to try and drive as fast as we can and I’ll take more risks on this rally than previously.  I’m hoping to finish top-three in the championship overall, so we’ll see how it goes – we’ve got no control over how the others do – we just have to rely on someone not being able to finish.”
 
Sumner also pointed out tyre choice will be a crucial part of the competitive equation. “It’s a real abrasive rock – even in the wet you’ll get tyre wear.  Every part of the country is different, Otago is round stone, quite slippery and Nelson is a sharp rock and I think has the most tyre wear of anywhere around.  Like last year, we’d do two stages and return with nothing but canvas for tyres – tyre choice will be pretty critical for this one.”
 
Third and still an outright title contender, two-time defending champion Richard Mason (Subaru Impreza) will be part of a leading paced wedge to try forcing open the overall battle. Reinforcing the ranks, Mason’s arch rival Chris West (Lancer EVO 9) will be another in direct contention for the event win.
 
As heated as the overall Goldstar battle is, Nelson’s roads will also decide the Group N 2WD category being contested by the Ford Fiesta cars, along with the Classic series – also entering a one-day shoot-out battle.
 
Making a full weekend of it, the event starts with a pre-event display at the World of Wearable (WOW) Art complex, Quarantine Rd, Stoke from 2pm on Saturday.  Following a signing session from 2:30pm, the cars cross the ceremonial start at 3:30pm.

Action starts from 7:30am on  Sunday as the first car leaves Wakefield for the 33.99km Shirtcliffs stage. Following three service breaks at the former Forest HQ at Tadmor, the cars have a final two-stage sprint to decide the winner – who will be rewarded back at the WOW complex from 5pm.
 

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