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Auckland based Ralliart New Zealand has won the opening round of the Production World Rally Championship at the WRC Rally of Sweden held over the weekend.
 
The first of six qualifying rounds in the 2008 global championship, driver Juho Hänninen (Finland) was able to clean sweep the production category in the Ralliart NZ Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX.
 
Finishing eighth overall at the WRC event, conditions varied as traditional snow and ice dissipated during the weekend – offering up gravel and tarmac during the 340km three-day test.
 
With the Ralliart team headed by former NZ rally champion Neil Allport, he confirmed their season opening win following the post-event technical clearance:

“All in all it’s an excellent result for the start of our championship with Juho because it was the hardest fought.  There were over 20 cars in our class, including the new S2000 Peugeot – which is very quick.”
 
Over a minute ahead of the nearest category competitor, Allport says it is great reward for their efforts.
 
“As a team it’s a great achievement for us – first time up.  It’s also a credibility thing – it demonstrates we are capable of running cars at this level and justification of what we are doing.  Long term is we can compete at this level; you have to step up to the plate and deliver results.”
 
Three months until their next round, the Ralliart car is bound for the searing climate of Greece, while the New Zealand crew will return to continue preparing a brand new car for debut later in the year.
 
“Our objective is to score as many points as we can on the first three rallies as our intention is to switch to EVO 10’s at the New Zealand round – so we need to make sure we have got things right.  We controlled what we did here very well…. we had a good handle on the opposition and everything went extremely well to plan even in the difficult conditions we had,” added Allport.
 
The Ralliart NZ team ran a second car at the event: Indonesian pairing of Subhan Aksa and co-driver Hendrik Mboi finished the event 25th overall – the first time they had seen snow.

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