It has been seven weeks since the third round of the New Zealand Rally Championship at Whangarei. For many of the Group N competitors, it’s been a time to hone their skills on foreign soil, but for Tauranga’s Callum McInnes and the Milkbar Rally Team, reflection and forward planning have been the only pace notes to speak of.

McInnes and co-driver David Calder piloted their Milkbar Subaru Impreza to fifth overall at Whangarei, a top result for the 31-year old and his family owned and run team. While the mid-season break has been filled with important business commitments, building on the current points standing of sixth place and jumping into the top five has never been far from his mind.

“Unfortunately I’ve been out of the seat for a few weeks, but in the meantime the car has had a mid-season overhaul and check over,” McInnes said.

“There wasn’t really much else to do. We finally found a good base setup at Whangarei and it’s given us the building blocks to go forward at Hawkes Bay and the rallies following.”

While McInnes may seem calm and collected in the lead up to the Hawkes Bay Rally, where he finished in seventh overall last year, but he is under no false impressions of just how difficult the central North Island leg of the championship will be.

“The Hawkes Bay is tough. The roads are awesome and great to drive on, and they’re so fast that it really gives the front-runners and more experienced drivers a chance to stretch their legs. Even so, a top five result and a leg podium would be a wonderful breakthrough for the team and David and I.”

To many this may seem like an optimistic target, but McInnes has been quietly chipping away at his pace all season, building on his 2007 rookie year, and a successful test on Tuesday has given the team a positive mindset to achieve their goals this weekend.

“We had a great event in 2007, and considering how it began we ended up pretty well. If we can get through both legs this weekend strongly, then who knows where we will end up. The test was certainly a nice way to prepare, because I really needed the seat time!”

The fourth round of the New Zealand Rally Championship at Hawkes Bay will serve as a precursor to Rally New Zealand on August 28-31, where the World Rally Championship will visit our shores for the last time before an ‘on again, off again’ arrangement with Australia kicks off in 2009. The 263km worth of driving over twelve long, arduous stages kicks off on Saturday morning.

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