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Sixteen aspiring young rally drivers from all over New Zealand have entered the inaugural Rally New Zealand Rising Stars Scholarship programme.
 
Entries closed on 16 February and Rally New Zealand chairman Chris Carr says a preliminary look through the detailed applications indicates the Rising Stars Scholarship shootout weekend in March is going to be fiercely contested.
 
“Applicants come from both rallying and circuit racing backgrounds from all over the North and South Islands, indicating the very strong interest in rallying throughout New Zealand,” says Carr.
 
“The calibre of the applicants is very high – there is some serious sporting talent amongst young kiwi rally drivers. We will have a challenging job determining the 12 most capable candidates to attend the Rising Stars Scholarship shootout weekend being held in the Maramarua Forest on 7 and 8 March, just over a fortnight’s time.”
 
All applicants for the Rising Stars Scholarship and two higher level Rising Stars Awards must be under 26 years of age on 1 January 2009, a member of a MotorSport New Zealand-affiliated car club and a New Zealand resident.
 
The Rising Stars Scholarship is for drivers who have not competed in the Group N class of the New Zealand Rally Championship before, and provides the winner with a $50,000 support package, including professional mentoring and the use of a professionally-prepared rally car to contest the N3 category – or two-wheel-drive production car class – of the 2009 New Zealand Rally Championship.
 
The Scholarship shootout weekend is designed to find the best candidate with talents in all areas of rallying required to succeed at a high level, says Carr.
 
“The success of kiwi drivers like Scott Dixon can be traced back to the implementation of a strong career development programme,” says Carr. “This year, in rallying, we see Mark Tapper offered an amazing opportunity to compete in the Production World Rally Championship through Pirelli star driver award he won last year. We believe our rising stars rally programmes will play an important role offering the kind of focussed opportunities needed to enable more young kiwi rally drivers to succeed on the world stage.”
 
The two day shootout weekend provides candidates with significant competitive driving experience and tuition, challenges from fitness and mental aptitude testing and the opportunity to demonstrate they have professional capabilities required of a full-time rally driver when dealing with media, sponsors and officials.
 
“The intention is that the scholarship winner should be someone who is also capable of winning this year’s or next year’s Rising Stars Development Award and progressing to a four-wheel-drive car the following year. This whole programme is designed to give a young rally driver’s career structure and focus to develop to an international-standard driver,” explains Carr. “Obviously the Scholarship winner benefits from winning this support package, but all the shootout contestants will also benefit from participating in a professionally-developed rally programme of this kind, learning skills to help them develop in the sport.”
 
The Scholarship applicants will be advised of the outcome of their application on Monday 23 February.
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