Macneall says Kiwis are world class
- 2nd May 2007, 9:11am
The rally, from May 11-13, doubles as the second round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship and second round of the Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship.
Macneall has just stepped down after three years as co-driver for fellow Australian, Chris Atkinson, in the Subaru World Rally Team competing in the FIA World Rally Championship.
He will co-drive for his girlfriend and top rated Kiwi driver, Emma Gilmour, in the Northland event.
The 34-year-old reckons that the leading Kiwi combinations are world class and will present a major test for the internationals competing in the second round of the FIA Asia Pacific Championship in Whangarei.
"The top runners are all outstanding. There's not a huge amount of difference between what you will see in Whangarei and the World Rally Championship that I've just left," Macneall said.
"The World Rally Championship cars are about one second per kilometre faster - that's all.
"Richard Mason is absolutely world class and I would like to think that Emma is developing that way also."
Macneall said he can't wait to return to the roads in the Kaipara and Whangarei regions that he knows so well.
"New Zealand rally roads are the best in the world. And of those roads I've always believed the Northland roads are outstanding.
"They are quite a mixture and different - the gorge stage at Waipu is incredible and then you have the twisting technical stages like Brooks that are also so fast."
The Western Australian joined Subaru in 2001 with Toshi Arai's WRC campaign before heading back to co-drive for Dean Herridge for Subaru in the Australian championship for two years. MacNeall was paired with Atkinson in 2004 and the pair moved into the second WRC pairing with world champion Petter Solberg for Subaru in 2005.
He wanted a break from the rigours of the WRC, leaving recently to pair up with his girlfriend in New Zealand.
"At present things are working out really well. We have to separate our relationship once we are in the car, but we know each other so well that it's worked really well."
Gilmour (Subaru WRX) is seeded 14th for the Hella International Rally of Whangarei and third New Zealander. She was ninth overall in the Asia Pacific round in Rotorua last year.
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