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Ralliart New Zealand’s entry in to the 2008 FIA Production World Rally Championship (P-WRC) means the team races at home for the first time during August’s Repco Rally NewZealand.

The Auckland-based team will run three Mitsubishis at the event; one for talented 27-year-old Finn Juho Hänninen, another for the Indonesian Rally Team entry of Subhan Aksa and a third for Christchurch’s Chris West who has won free entry into the P-WRC class via a Repco Rally New Zealand scholarship. West will also compete for New Zealand Rally Championship points during the international event.

Ralliart New Zealand is headed by former New Zealand rally champion Neil Allport, who travels to the team’s six nominated rounds to oversee the team’s operations. The P-WRC comprises eight of the 15 WRC events and each team nominates six in which they must compete.

Hänninen has won 17 stages outright in the two events contested so far this season – Sweden, where he was first P-WRC car home, and Greece, where he was seventh – and will compete at his home event in Finland at the beginning of August before heading to New Zealand. 

“He’s fast, very fast,” says Allport about the front-running Hänninen, the 2004 Finnish Group N rally champion.  “We expect him to continue his dominance on the stages; it’s just whether or not he can shake off this little bit of bad luck that keeps him from finishing.”

“He loves these New Zealand roads,” adds Allport. “Hänninen obviously picked this event again because he has been so strong here – it suits him so well – that Finnish style of faster cambered roads is right up his street.”

Hänninen finished seventh P-WRC competitor in New Zealand last year, his first year in the P-WRC.

Using a Europe-based car for the northern hemisphere rounds of the championship, the Ralliart New Zealand team has a brand-new Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9 for their home round. They’ll also take this car to Japan and Great Britain, the final two rounds for the season, where Hänninen previously has performed with distinction.

Allport says each car is run as a stand-alone team from the Ralliart New Zealand service area at Mystery Creek Events Centre.

“Westy [Chris West], he’s in a good space now, so from our point of view all we’ll need to do is continue to push him in the same direction. Juho is Juho – he is just 100% committed to the job and whatever we give him he uses to its absolute best. And he will do his best with it – there are no two-ways about that. We run each car with its own team of guys, which is the only approach.”

Rally fans can watch teams like Ralliart New Zealand at work in the service parks at Mystery Creek throughout the four days of rally action.

Repco Rally New Zealand starts on Thursday 28 August with the WRC shakedown and ceremonial start in central Hamilton. The rally proper starts on Friday 29 August with competitors taking in stages around Pirongia and Waitomo. On Saturday 30 August, the WRC, P-WRCNew Zealand Rally Championship and clubmans’ competitors head to Port Waikato and the lower reaches of the Franklin district, then Sunday’s double run of the iconicWhaanga Coast near Raglan often the deciding stage of the rally. Event tickets, and merchandise are on sale in Repco stores or visit the website, www.rallynz.org.nz.

Repco Rally New Zealand is the 11th of 15 rounds in the 2008 FIA World Rally Championship, the sixth of eight rounds in the 2008 FIA Production World Rally Championship and the fifth of six rounds in the 2008 New Zealand Rally Championship.

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