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Four talented New Zealand rally drivers have applied for the chance to take on the world's best in next month's FIA Rally New Zealand.

The 38th running of the longest running annual international sporting event in this country will be staged in and around Hamilton and the Waikato from 30 August to 2 September.

Rally New Zealand, in a bid to further foster Kiwi rally drivers on to the world stage, has again offered two scholarships for local drivers to take part in the New Zealand round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

While New Zealand drivers are all able to enter the event, these two slots become wild card entries in the Production World Rally Championship class. This means they will be able to start much further up the order and test themselves against the world's best in the equivalent machinery.

Last year's scholarships went to 2004 national champion Chris West and current champion Richard Mason, who went on to finish in the top-10 overall and second in the PWRC class.

"It was the perfect example of how this wild card opportunity offers our drivers this wonderful chance," said Chris Carr, chairman of Rally New Zealand.

"Not only do they get the chance to line-up against the best drivers in the world in the PWRC class, they are doing so under the glare of all of the major decision makers in the world.

"If they harbour ambitions of cracking it on the world stage, then this is the ideal springboard."

Mason and his co-driver Sara Randall from Masterton have again applied for the scholarship in the hopes of going one better in 2007.

The other applicants are Geraldine's Hayden Paddon, Rotorua's Dean Sumner and Dunedin's Emma Gilmour.

Paddon, a MotorSport New Zealand scholarship recipient last year, sprang into prominence when he took out the Hella International Rally of Whangarei this year, the event that also enticed several overseas drivers for the second round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship.

Gilmour, the 2006 Rally Founders Trophy winner, is back after destroying her car in a spectacular crash in Whangarei.

Sumner, who gained a MotorSport New Zealand scholarship this year, won his first national championship round in Nelson last year and was an outstanding 14th overall in Rally New Zealand 2006.

The winners will be announced at the Rally New Zealand media day at Mystery Creek this weekend.

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