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Eighteen year old Nelson driver, Daniel Harris, will this weekend start his first International Rally in his achievement-filled rally career, the International Rally of Whangarei.

Driving the House of Knives Ford Fiesta ST, he and co-driver Darryn Green are excited about experiencing the Northland’s cambered roads for the first time and continuing their debut season in the New Zealand Rally Championship, where they currently sit second overall in the Group N 2WD class.

“We are excited about getting to view the roads in the Northland region that we have heard so much about."

"We know they will challenge us, but we love nothing more than a challenge! Our aim is to score points here, as heading to the end of the season, notably the finale in Nelson, we will be pushing for top spots to complete our campaign plan.”

Harris, the youngest driver in the Group N 2WD class, is also scoring points for the Pirelli Star Driver and the NZ Rising Stars Development awards, both of which have huge rewards, providing the advancement and the financial support needed for a young rally star such as Harris.

Firstly the Pirelli ‘Star Driver’ award is a global search for the five best young rally drivers from FIA Regional Championships. Each region holds qualifying events and a final ‘shootout’ event. The successful drivers from these Championships will be invited to contest a series of six World Championship rallies in 2010 in order to gain experience and showcase their skills on the world stage – the best break into the world scene any young driver could wish for!

The NZ Rising Stars Development award provides the winner with a prize valued at $50,000 towards their movement forward in the sport, including tutoring and support. The award offers the 2009 winner the support to run a four-wheel-drive car in Rally New Zealand and the New Zealand Rally Championship in 2010.

The Rally of Whangarei is a compulsory round for this award, and the first point scoring round for Harris.

His amazing feats behind the wheel of an old Mitsubishi Evo 3 last season amazed onlookers when he debuted in regional rallying, notably leading the Rally of Nelson outright from former National Champion Richard Mason, after winning the opening and longest stage of the rally, at just 17 years of age.

Harris is currently ranked the 20th outright fastest driver on gravel in New Zealand, being the youngest on this prestigious list and achieving it in his debut year. From producing his first Championship stage win on debut in the NZ Rally Xtreme Championship, to unbelievably winning the 4WD Rally class after a mature drive at the infamous Ashley Forest Rallysprint, Harris proved that the then 17-year-old didn’t need technology to be a front runner and is thankful for the support to bring him to the New Zealand Rally Championship which allows him to compete for both of the awards available to evolve his promising career.

“These awards are going to be my chance of moving forward and continuing my career. They certainly provide the winners with beneficial support to progress,” the youngster said.

Switching to 2WD in 2009, the Group N 2WD class at the Rally of Otago was a fierce and close battle, with Harris and Whangarei local, Ben Jagger, fighting day two down to the wire of 2.8 seconds. Harris knows that Jagger, the current Championship leader, will be hard to hunt down on his local roads.

“Ben (Jagger) will be quick there without a doubt. There are three rounds left in the Group N 2WD chase, which see us visiting his home territory, Wairarapa, then my home territory for the finale. It could make it very exciting and Wairarapa could be a crucial round for us. We are enjoying competing against very competitive drivers such as Jagger. We are the two youngest in the class and currently 1st and 2nd in the class battle.”

The International Rally of Whangarei (June 6 & 7) is also a round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship and will cover roads in the Whangarei and Kaipara districts.

Event information can be obtained at www.rallywhangarei.co.nz

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