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Ten Australian drivers have entered the Dunlop International Classic Rally of Otago, with two-time Australian Rally Champions, Geoff Portman and Ross Runnalls, heading the list.

The 42-car field will be lead off by 2006 runners-up, Alex Fiorio and Fabrizia Pons, in a Porsche 911. Fiorio will be pushed hard by leading New Zealander, Deane Buist, in a Ford Escort RS1800.

This year’s Classic Rally entry only has one ex-WRC star (Fiorio). Plans to get several other high profile overseas stars was hindered by the event being held a month earlier than in previous years.  

Event spokesman, Roger Oakley, said: “There is a lot of enthusiasm amongst top European drivers to compete at the Otago Rally, but for a variety of reasons it was not possible for them to attend this year.  However our network of contacts, and reputation, is always increasing.  

“We have high hopes in 2008 to see some of the big names that we came very close to attracting this year,” he added.

Portman will start the event from fourth position on the road, and leads a group of five Australians who have been seeded in the top 14. New South Wales Rally Champion, Michael Boaden, will start from postion nine in his 2-litre Escort, and Victorian Darryn Snooks will drive the second Snooks team Stanza (seeded 11th).

Reigning Queensland Rally Champion, Glenn Brinkman, starts from 13 in a leased Ford Escort RS1800 on his first entry in the event, while last year’s eighth placegetter, Peter Whitten, will drive an ex-Brian Stokes, ex-Neil Allport BDA Escort, starting from position 14.

Other Australians entered are: Richard Opie (Datsun Stanza), Greg Poole (Ford Escort), Peter Riseborough (Datsun Sunny), John Hills (Ford Escort BDA) and Phillip Mason (Toyota Starlet).

Organisers of the event, the Otago Sports Car Club, are thrilled with the 10 Australian entries for the event, which is more Aussies than have appeared in the rally before.  

“Each year we are humbled by the interest the Australians show in competing at Otago, and this year’s entry is fantastic.  Aside from those competing this year, there is quite a list of those who made very serious enquiries,” Oakley said.

Notable Aussies missing from the entry list are Ross Dunkerton, John Spencer and Keith Callinan, who have been regular entrants in the past.

Dunkerton has had to forego the event as he is competing in Targa Tasmania the following weekend.

The event runs on the weekend of April 14 and 15.

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