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Planning is well under way for the 2009 Rally of Otago, which will be held in and around the New Zealand South Island city of Dunedin on May 16 and 17.

The event is round two of the New Zealand Rally Championship, and will include the popular International Classic Rally of Otago, which is again expected to attract some of world rallying’s superstars.

The rally festivities will kick off on Friday, May 15 with an indoor motor show at Dunedin’s Edgar sports stadium. Well supported by the public last year, the show will feature all cars competing in the rally, along with other motoring displays, merchandise sales and giveaways.

The rally proper starts on Saturday morning, and this year’s route will total 270 competitive kilometers, using 14 special stages over the two days.

Two all-new stages in the Middlemarch area will be used that have never seen rally action before, while stages that are long-time rally favourites, such as Kuri Bush and Waipori Gorge, will also be included in the event itinerary. New stages from the 2008 event, Ramrock, Moonlight and Coal Gully, will return.

Competition on both days of the rally will conclude with massive 50 kilometre stages that will really test the fitness of drivers and their cars. With seconds often deciding the result, these stages will be crucial for all crews.

“We are determined to continually improve the Otago Rally, and the addition of new stages, while retaining some of the event favourites, is a big part of that improvement,” Clerk of Course, Norman Oakley, said.

“We have carefully selected roads that will be fantastic to drive on and will stand up well to the expected 100-car field”

Non-compulsory reconnaissance for the rally will be held on Thursday, May 14 and Friday, May 15, with a one-pass recce. Competitors will need to purchase event safety notes to participate in recce.

Organisers are currently speaking to a number of international rally stars with the view to having them enter next year’s rally. Australian crews are expected to return to the event in large numbers.

Regular Otago Rally competitor, Ross Dunkerton, is expected to enter again in 2009. The five-time Australian Rally Champion has recently purchased Jeff Judd’s Ford Escort RS1800, and is determined to push for his first Otago Rally victory.

Fellow Aussies Darryn Snooks (Datsun Stanza), Michael Boaden (Ford Escort) and Neville Whittenbury (Datsun 180B SSS) will return to the rally in 2009, while Australian classic rally regular, Jeff David, is expected to make his Otago debut in his powerful Porsche 911.

Intention to Enter forms are now available from the Otago Rally website, and overseas assistance packages will once more be offered.

After the fast and furious action of the 2009 rally, the event will conclude with the legendary prizegiving function in the Dundein Town Hall. Now almost as popular as the rally itself, the prizegiving dinner is a not-to-be-missed affair that annually attracts over 500 people.

Further details on the 2009 Otago Rally will be release early in the new year.

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