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This weekend’s second round of the Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship see’s a shift up of driver talent.
Combined with the second round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, the international competition will be more than just a gauge of the home-grown ability level.
Due to the eligibility of the New Zealand based Group-N production car rules, they are entitled to run with the international cars – allowing them to run the more expensive and powerful FIA control fuel.  Added to that is the ability for crews to write their own ‘pace’ or safety notes – something many eye as a crucial step in preparation for moving to the international arena.
While they start behind the international field for road position, the up-shot could be a gift of fine weather to level the playing field.  If the weather stays fine the international cars will sweep the loose gravel from the driving line to provide a faster surface for the Kiwi chargers.
Leading international driver Cody Crocker (Australia) says the weather will play a position in the first run through the stages – where he could lose time to the Kiwi flyers.
Defending New Zealand Rally Champion Richard Mason (Masterton), driving a Subaru Impreza, says his focus will be on being first for the championship rather than tackling Cody head on.  Although he added his new car and tyre package is in the development phase:
“We haven’t run on these sorts of roads with the Silverstone tyre; I’ve got a pretty good idea how they’ll go after testing with them but we’re still learning.  “
“We’re definitely here to gain points for the New Zealand Rally Championship, I think you need to make sure you’re focusing on the right thing – certainly taking points home for us is that.  By the same token, if the opportunity was to arise to take a podium finish we’d take a look at that – but it all depends on how it comes together.”
Following the two-day reconnaissance in preparation for the two day action weekend, fellow Subaru driver Emma Gilmour (Dunedin) said she was surprised how good a condition the roads were in:
“It’s a lot harder and drier than I expected, especially after all they flooding in the Whangarei region earlier this year.  The roads are in fantastic condition and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Currently placed second in the series after one round, behind Richard Mason, Emma says the highlight will be comparing times with her driving tutor and defending Asia Pacific Champion Cody Crocker: “I think it’s great to have the international drivers over here and adds a bit of calibre to what we’re competing with.”
Leading Mitsubishi campaigner Brett Martin (Turangi) said the flowing nature of the roads will suit his driving style and his Lancer EVO 9:  “I enjoy these roads; tyre wear could be a problem though, but to finish is the first goal of the weekend.”
Three categories of car will contest this weekend’s second round of the Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship.  Behind the Group N 4WD cars will be the Group N 2WD cars (Ford Fiesta), followed by the Kiwi2 cars.
The two-day event covers roads south of Whangarei, using stages used by past Rally New Zealand events.

Following a ceremonial finish at 6pm this evening at the Quayside Town Basin, the cars depart at 8am on the Saturday morning for eight stages, including a double run around the Whangarei Super Special (Pohe Island).  Returning for an overnight park, the cars can be seen at the Quayside Town Basin from 4pm, where the teams prepare them for the following day.
Sunday starts at 7am and includes another eight stages to the south of Whangarei in the Waipu and Maungaturoto regions.  The winner will be crowned at the Quayside Town Basin at 3pm, having covered 277km of competitive roads.
Weather predictions cast the doubt of fine weather over Saturday, with occasional showers, but Sunday is expected to be fine and warm.

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