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The 2007 Rally New Zealand was another great event, with the closest result in WRC history.

Once again RallySport Magazine were there to capture all the action, and bring you our tales "From Behind the Bunting".

Rally NZ looked like being a non-event for the Norwegian duo of Henning Solberg and Cato Menkerud.  Menkerud missed Shakedown due to a stomach bug, and the team had to call on Patrick Flodin’s Swedish co-driver to complete Shakedown with Solberg.  The choice of fill-in co-drivers was limited to those who could read and speak Norwegian, so it was Maria Andersson who got the job.  She did the Shakedown with Solberg and then jumped back in next to Flodin for his run over the stages.

Marcus Gronholm was also feeling a little under the weather, complaining of flu-like symptoms.  He didn’t attend the pre-event Rally Show, preferring to stay back in the warmth of the hotel (under team orders),  but by Sunday night he had probably forgotten how bad he felt on Thursday!

Scott Pedder’s rally also got off to a bad start.  He broke a driveshaft in his leased Reece Jones Motorsport Mitsubishi Evo 9 on the Shakedown, and then crashed on SS1.  Pedder, and co-driver Glen Weston, re-joined the rally under Superally rules on Leg 2, and completed the event in 41st place.

Pedder is hoping for a return to the ARC in the future but admits it doesn’t look likely until 2009.  In the meantime, he may contest a couple of tarmac events and is hoping the new model Evo 10 will be homologated by mid 2008.

There was plenty of talk about the ins and outs of next year’s Rally Australia in NZ.  A representative from Kyogle Shire in northern NSW was present at the event and met with the WRC Rally Radio team to discuss logistics.  A member of SWRT confirmed that he had received a copy of the route, and that both Citroen and Ford had sent someone to drive the stages.   The event is rumoured to be considering a remote service park on at least one of the days due to the distance between the rally stages and rally headquarters, thought to be at either Sanctuary Cove or Surfers Paradise.

English driver Natalie Barrett was spotted checking out the rally action.  She flew Chris Atkinson’s father, John, and a couple of others, by helicopter to a couple of spectator points, and when questioned admitted she is ‘not too good on the landings’!

The recent sponsorship of the BP Ford World Rally Team by Abu Dhabi could have just as easily gone to Mitsubishi or Subaru.  Apparently both Japanese teams were offered the money, but declined!  Ford, the third choice, quickly snapped up the offer.

We could see another couple of Aussies contesting the world championship next year, albeit in the PWRC.  Cody Crocker and Ben Atkinson are thought to be trying to get the support of Subaru to have a shot on the world stage.

Chris Atkinson drove brilliantly on the final day of the event to overtake Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala and take fourth place.  Chris admitted the Subaru was still difficult to drive but was pleased with his speed on Sunday.  Things may  not improve drastically any time soon for Atkinson, and teammate Petter Solberg, with the ’08 model Impreza not expected to be ready for competition until mid next year.

Speaking of the ’08 Impreza, a number of them were used by Rally NZ as the Safety vehicles raising much debate from WRX fans as to the new look.  Many commented it looks like the BMW 1 series from the front.

Rally organizers couldn’t have scripted a closer finish if they tried.  Not only was the margin between Marcus Gronholm and Sebastien Loeb only 0.3 second, the PWRC battle between Toshi Arai and Niall McShea also went down to the wire, with Arai pipping his rival.

The rally after-party again proved popular with many of the teams keen to let their hair down.  Chris Atkinson, Petter Solberg and Phil Mills were happy to chat with rally fans, whilst Mikko Hirvonen and Matthew Wilson danced the night away.  Marcus Gronholm missed the party, though – he was already on a plane back to Finland on Sunday night!

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