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The Rally of Otago will return to its regular place as the opening round of the New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) in 2013.

The Dunedin-based rally will be held from April 12 to 14 next year, and is one of only two events in the 2013 championship to be held over more than one day.

2013 will be the 20th consecutive year that the Otago Sports Car Club has hosted a round of the NZRC, a feat that even Rally New Zealand can’t claim.

“We are delighted to be the first round of the New Zealand Rally Championship again,” Rally of Otago spokesman, Roger Oakley, said.

“Being the first round brings the excitement of all the teams competing at their peak, as there is everything to fight for. We are aware of some exciting new cars being prepared and this will add spice to the rally.”

After being held in late May 2012, the April date suits the organisers and will hopefully ensure that good weather greets the list of NZRC, Classic and Allcomers competitors who head to the South Island for the event.

“The rally does not clash with any Australian events, although Targa Tasmania is the following week,” Oakley said.

“One of the best loved features of the event is the participation of Australian teams, who are very competitive, and also bring a great attitude to enjoying the sport.”

Over the past 10 years, as well as being a premier round of the NZRC, the Rally of Otago has also become the Southern Hemisphere’s marquee classic rally.

A long list of international stars have contested the rally, including former World Champions Bjorn Waldegard, Hannu Mikkola, Juha Kankkunen and Ari Vatanen, and fellow WRC stars Michele Mouton, Russell Brookes, Alex Fiorio and Piero Liatti.

“We will once again be bringing an international class guest competitor, and the search has begun,” Oakley explained.

“We very much enjoyed having Gwyndaf Evans and Phil Mills here in 2012. They were great ambassadors for the sport and for the event, and we look forward to another high profile international crew in 2013.”

Details on the event format will be unveiled in the coming weeks.

2013 New Zealand Rally Championship Calendar*

Rally of Otago, April 12-14
Rally Whangarei (APRC), May 18-19
Rally NZ or Daybreaker Rally, July 6
Rally Gisborne or Rally NZ, August 10
Rally Canterbury, September 7
Rally Wairarapa, October 5
* Subject to official confirmation
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