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This coming weekend is hoping to be a drought breaker as the Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship heads for the Trusthouse Racetech Rally Wairarapa (12-13 April).
 
The region’s dry summer and drier autumn will offer a tough first-up test for the three-category rally championship field.  With rain continually predicted, the lifeblood of the farming community would provide a two-fold respite. 

Aside from promoting grass growth, abating dust along the 255km competitive route will be a major factor in levelling potential for visibility concerns.
 
Following the leading pace at the front of the field, subsequent competitors will be advantaged by the hard road base providing a better level of grip for the specially designed tyres.
 
Adding to the ferocity of competition, the Subaru versus Mitsubishi battle will be supplemented by the injection of rookie entries.  Taranaki’s Brad Ayling and Cambridge based Andre Meir will balance the Subaru numbers with Rotorua 16-year old Sloan Cox in a Mitsubishi now age eligible for a full championship season.
 
Also to Subaru’s line-up will be the return of 18-year old Northland teen Kirsty Nelson, Rotorua-based Emma Gilmour, Tauranga’s Callum McInnes and Foxton farmer Grant Barber.
 
Topping the Mitsubishi charge, 2007 runner-up Hayden Paddon of Geraldine will again be joined by Rotorua’s Dean Sumner and now Masterton based Brett Martin.  Returning; Christchurch’s Chris West and Auckland’s Mark Tapper will be hounded by Hastings driver Stewart Taylor and Wellington’s Nathan Thomas.
 
Two-wheel drive action will again be a hot contest of technology with the late model Group N and Kiwi-2 cars often eclipsed by the classic Group B Mazda RX7 of Palmerston North’s Bert Murray.
Returning for his third season, the classic category competitor has eight other challengers – including Australia’s Greg Poole in one of three Ford Escort BDA’s.
 
Reinforcing Ford’s presence; three world-category Fiesta’s return for their second season of New Zealand competition.  Invercargill’s Chris Lange will head talented Northlander Ben Jagger and two-wheel drive convert Patrick Malley.  Kiwi-2 champion Dave Strong returns in his Honda Civic to be challenged by Kapiti’s former champion Aaron Cook in the ex-Strong Honda Jazz. 

Christchurch’s Sean Gray ends his hiatus from four-wheel drive competition with a new campaign aboard a Mitsubishi Mirage.
 
The first event of six on the championship calendar starts with a car display and autograph signing session at Masterton’s Genesis Energy Centre from 6pm on the Friday evening.  The cars are then flagged away at a ceremonial start from 7pm.

Covering fifteen stages totalling 255km of competition over the Saturday and Sunday, the event returns for a champagne finish at the Copthorne Solway Park from 3:30pm in the afternoon.

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