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International drivers are lining up for this year's Rally New Zealand, the 38th edition of the rally, and Round 11 of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Rally New Zealand organisers expect up to 20 internationals in the PCWRC class alone.  Rally New Zealand will be staged in and around Hamilton on the country’s North Island from August 30 until September 2.

There's massive interest already from international drivers, particularly in the Production Car World Rally Championship (PCWRC). The Production Car WRC, limited to less modified rally cars, will again contest a round of their world title at the New Zealand round.

"We met with many of the drivers, the main teams and FIA officials at the recent world championship round in Greece, and there was tremendous interest from the PCWRC class," Rally New Zealand General Manager, Paul Mallard, said.

He expects entries from all the leading candidates including current PCWRC leader Toshi Arai (Japan) with his NZ-born co-driver Tony Sircombe.

The other frontrunners who indicated they will come to New Zealand include defending PCWRC champion Nassar Al-Attiyah (Qatar), last year's runner-up Fumio Nutahara (Japan), former Mitsubishi World Rally Championship driver Kristian Sohlberg, former PCWRC champion Niall McShea (Ireland) and two super-talented young prospects - Juho Hanninen, rated the next Finnish star, and super-Swede Patrik Flodin.

"We expect them all to come to New Zealand, making us the hottest round of the PCWRC series this year," Mallard said.

"The Championship is very competitive and New Zealand has traditionally been one of the most competitive rounds with the lead changing right to the end of the rally.”

The other key for the PCWRC class is that it will include two New Zealand drivers, who will get wild card entries. Last year New Zealand Rally Champion, Richard Mason, finished second in the PCWRC class and 10th overall in Rally New Zealand.

"PCWRC is the entry class to the World Rally Championship. In the past New Zealand drivers could enter but were seeded below all the PWRC drivers.

"But under this system our two wild card entries are seeded with these drivers and when the reseed takes place on the second day, they could be right at the top of this group, as we saw last year,” Mallard added.

Applications for the two wild card spots close at the end of June, with an announcement on the successful drivers next month.

Added to the mix will be former Mitsubishi Ralliart Australia driver, Scott Pedder. Pedder, with co-driver Glen Weston, will drive a New Zealand prepared Lancer Evo 9 with sponsorship from the Trading Post newspaper in Australia.

The shakedown for Rally NZ takes place at Mystery Creek on Thursday, August 30 ahead of the Ceremonial Start in Hamilton on Thursday evening.

The rally proper begins on August 31 in the Otorohanga and Waitomo region, day two is in the Franklin District and northern Waikato and the final day is around Raglan, with super special stages each day back at the rally headquarters and service park at Mystery Creek.

RallySport Magazine are again running their annual tour to the Rally of New Zealand. Now in its eighth year, the RSM tour should again prove popular with many rally fans returning to do the tour every year.

“With the help of our strong contacts in New Zealand, our Rally New Zealand tour has evolved over the years and now offers rally fans the ultimate WRC experience,” RallySport Magazine’s Peter Whitten said.

“This year we have a number of great inclusions, including a tour of a WRC team service area, the chance to meet Subaru’s Australian star, Chris Atkinson, as well as exclusive spectator points, stress-free travelling between stages and top quality accommodation,” he added.

Full details on RallySport Magazine’s Rally New Zealand tour can be found HERE.

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