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New Zealand’s best driver talent gets the chance to benchmark their ability against the world leaders at this weekend’s 2007 Rally New Zealand.
 
The penultimate round of the Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship lines the field up in a head-to-head contest against the World Rally Championship drivers at the Hamilton event.
 
With the New Zealand championship using Group N specification production vehicles – they are in direction competition with the Production World Rally Championship contenders.
Up against current table leader Toshi Arai (Japan) there are three Kiwi crews who have entries in to the Production World Rally Championship round as part of their domestic points chase.
 
Heading the New Zealand field is Geraldine’s Hayden Paddon (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 8) with an 18 point lead in the local championship.  19-year old Paddon is joined by Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour (Subaru Impreza) as a two-car scholarship entry package.
 
Third entrant is defending NZ champion and runner-up in the 2006 Rally New Zealand PWRC category, Richard Mason.  With entries restricted, he was able to purchase European driver Kristian Sohlberg’s slot for the New Zealand round of the series.
 
Run behind the 14 WRC cars that top-bill the annual Rally New Zealand event the three Kiwi cars in the PWRC field add another 22 entrants.  The remaining 16 local championship contenders follow behind in a third group.
 
New Zealand’s championship field also includes former WRC works driver Alister McRae (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9) and American business magnate Ken Block (Subaru Impreza).
 
A full local field also includes former champion Chris West/Garry Cowan (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9), second in the series Sam Murray/Rob Ryan (Subaru Impreza) and Northland teenager Kirsty Nelson/Michele Brunt (Subaru Impreza).
 
Set over three days only the first two count toward the New Zealand title.  Starting with a shakedown test at Mystery Creek on Thursday morning (30 August) – the event kicks off with a ceremonial start in Hamilton on Thursday evening.
 
Friday is a five-stage test around the Otorohanga and Waitomo regions – including the Super Special at Mystery Creek service base.  Saturday covers six stages in Franklin and Waikato districts with the Sunday a seven stage slog that concludes with a final sprint around the Mystery Creek Super Special.  Ceremonial finish celebrations begin at 3pm on the Sunday at the Mystery Creek Events Centre.
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