Young rally drivers from Invercargill to Auckland will contest this year’s Rally New Zealand Rising Stars Scholarship shootout at the end of November.
Nine candidates have been selected to compete for the $50,000 scholarship package, says Rally New Zealand chairman Chris Carr.
“We’re delighted to see the calibre of this year’s Scholarship candidates is again very high. It’s going to make for a very interesting shootout which takes place in the Maramarua Forest over the weekend of 20-22 November.
“This year we have seen the fantastic opportunities enjoyed by the inaugural Rising Stars Scholarship recipient Ben Hunt. His rallying career has been given a tremendous boost and we are confident that this opportunity will offer similar benefits to another young aspiring driver for the 2010 rally season,” says Carr.
Nelsonian Ben Hunt comments: “Winning the Rising Stars Scholarship has given me a good grounding for the many seasons of rally competition I am to complete in years to come and will hopefully lead into bigger and better things. It has enabled me to leap forward a few years in terms of driving experience, a benefit you can’t really place a value on.”
This year’s Risings Stars Scholarship candidates are:
Stephen Barker (Hamilton, 21) – Barker has now completed one season in the New Zealand Rally Championship, competing in the open 4WD class in a Mitsubishi with plenty of success, ending the season third, impressing many after making the Top 4 of the 2009 Rising Stars scholarship.
Jordan Burley (Hamilton, 21) – Burley competes in many tarmac and gravel events in the upper North Island, setting times far quicker than most would expect his Toyota Corolla to achieve, including leading his class before retiring at the prestigious Possum Bourne Memorial Rally earlier this year.
Phillip Campbell (Tauranga, 23) – Campbell has been a regular campaigner and winner in class A of the Northern Rallysprint Series and, with one round to go in that series this year, has a dominant class lead.
David Holder (Invercargill, 20) – Although Holder has limited experience – just one gravel sprint - he certainly has rallying in the blood thanks to his older brother James. David has a great technical understanding of cars, having helped build and service with his brother.
Tom Hulbert (Kaukapakapa, 25) – Hulbert, despite his young age, has 11 years competitive motorsport experience, gaining huge success at a club level. Hulbert is a two-time Hibiscus Coast Motorsport Club champion and is well on the way to claiming his third title.
Jamie Kitzen (Papakura, 23) – Kitzen is another with rallying in the blood, his father Chris having been one of Possum Bourne’s main mechanics. Jamie has competed in several rallies as well as rally sprints, achieving some encouraging results and rates his greatest moment in motorsport as riding shotgun with Possum in testing.
Kevin Laird (Gore, 24) – Laird is another to grow up around motorsport with his father Roger being very involved in South Island motorsport. Laird has campaigned two different Suzuki Swifts throughout his six year career, consistently achieving good class results.
Scott Rutherford (Te Atatu, 16) – Having only just turned sixteen, Rutherford is by far the youngest applicant however he is by no means inexperienced. Karting since eight, at age fourteen he then turned his hand to gravel and has not looked back, running his Toyota Starlet in 39 events since 2007.
Philip Terry (Invercargill, 23) – Terry is another of the ‘Southland invasion’ on this years scholarship. Over the last two years he has campaigned his Toyota Trueno with success, more often than not taking out a class podium place.
The Rising Stars Scholarship shootout starts on Friday 20 November with a meet-and-greet session before contestants head to the Maramarua Forest for a comprehensive array of challenges. Contestants will be tested both inside and outside the car with assessments including driving, fitness and assessments of their ability to interact with the media and sell themselves to a potential sponsor. The Scholarship winner will receive one of the biggest prizes in New Zealand motorsport worth over $50,000 which includes the use of a professionally-prepared Ford Fiesta ST to run in the Group N (production car) 2WD class of the 2010 New Zealand Rally Championship and expert mentoring.
The Rising Stars scholarship is one of three awards being offered over the shootout weekend with the Rising Stars development and international awards also up for grabs. The drivers that have qualified for the final ‘shootout’ for these awards have done so with their efforts in the 2009 New Zealand Rally Championships in the Group N 2wd and Group N 4wd classes respectively.
Contesting the development award are Whangarei's Ben Jagger, Nelson's Ben Hunt and Aucklander Patrick Malley.  The winner of this award will receive a $50,000 assistance package to step up to the Group N 4WD class of the 2010 New Zealand Rally Championship. Competing for the international award that offers a $50,000 assistance package to contest an overseas event in 2010 are Hayden Paddon of Geraldine, Kieran Hall of Nelson, and Christchurch's Josh Marston.
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