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The next Rally New Zealand will run in early May 2010 when the World Rally Championship has been confirmed to be returning to New Zealand, say the directors of Rally of New Zealand.
“The FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) has confirmed New Zealand will be a round of the premier global rallying series in 2010, as per the current policy to rotate events between countries on a biennial basis. Therefore we have decided to focus on preparations to run a truly world-class Rally New Zealand with a full WRC and national rally field at that time, rather than run Rally New Zealand in 2009,” says Rally New Zealand chairman Chris Carr.
The directors have been considering running an event this year at a lower level to cater for New Zealand competitors, says Carr. “However we have concluded it would be more beneficial for the sport in general to allow local rally competitors to focus their attention on this year’s Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship.
“A number of competitors have advised us that they are concerned about their ability to gain sufficient support from their sponsors to run effectively this season. With this in mind Rally New Zealand has determined that it will not run an event that may dilute competitors’ efforts to succeed at a national level.
“We are mindful not only of competitors’ sponsors, but also of our own sponsors and their current market considerations. We want to ensure that we allow all of them to be in the best position to assist motorsport next year for our WRC event,” says Carr.
Rally New Zealand has been a round of the World Rally Championship since 1977 and as such, there is a certain level of kudos, both internationally and nationally, associated with winning the title ‘Rally New Zealand’.
“It’s important to us to ensure Kiwi enthusiasts associate Rally New Zealand with a truly international event. This has been a gut-wrenching decision to make, but we believe it is the most responsible action at the present time.”
Rally New Zealand recognises the need to help its competitors grow and develop longer term careers in this demanding sport and this year has run, for the first time, a driver development programme called Rising Stars.
“The Rising Stars programme includes the stipulation that competitors in the Development and International Awards and the winner and runner-up in the Scholarship must compete in Rally New Zealand,” explains Carr. “We have now nominated the one-day Possum Bourne Memorial Rally as the event Rising Stars competitors must complete.
“Our Scholarship winner Ben Hunt and runner-up Daniel Harris, both from Nelson, will compete in the Possum Bourne Memorial Rally as part of their 2009 event line-up partly-funded by the Rising Stars programme. Competitors vying for the $50,000 prize pools in the Development and International Awards will also have to contest this event in order to earn points towards these Rising Stars Awards,” says Carr.
“The Possum Bourne Memorial Rally, sponsored by Smartwood by Alpwood, has run behind the Rally New Zealand competitors on the Saturday for the past two years. The one day rally is run by the Pukekohe Car Club in honour of New Zealand rally legend Possum Bourne, and we are happy to continue to support this event.”
A 200 kilometre gravel event, the Possum Bourne Memorial Rally will run on Saturday 22 August 2009. More details of the exact route and regulations will be published on the event website, www.pbmrally.co.nz, in due course.
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