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Early indications point to a bumper entry for the New Zealand round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship in May.

Up to 20 internationals could travel to NZ for the Hella International Rally of Whangarei, with the new event from May 11 to 13 hosting the Asia Pacific Rally Championship for the first time.

APRC officials have container bookings for 14 cars already, which is an indication there could be double the number of international entries. The rally will be the second leg of the seven-round FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, as well as the second round of the New Zealand Rally Championship.

“We are quite excited by the early indications from APRC officials,” Rally New Zealand General Manager Paul Mallard said. “There are no firm entries in hand as yet but there have been indications that 14 cars will require freight to New Zealand. Many will be coming from New Caledonia, which hosts the first round of the championship next month.”

That includes two cars from the Indian-based MRF team that did not compete in last year’s event in Rotorua, but have been strong championship contenders, winning the 2005 FIA APRC with Jussi Valimaki, who is rumoured to be returning to the Championship after a year on the World Rally Championship circuit.

There are two spaces booked by the Les Walkden Rally Team that boasts defending champion Cody Crocker from Australia in a Subaru. Other freight bookings have been received from Japan’s Cusco Racing with one car, six from New Caledonia and three from the Arai Racing Team that is headed by former FIA World Production Car Champion Toshi Arai.

The Japanese driver, Arai, competed in Propecia Rally New Zealand last year and last took part in the Asia Pacific Championship in Rotorua two years ago when he won the event. His co-driver is Tony Sircombe.

“It is a very encouraging start. This year as round two of the championship, it will be important for drivers to gain key championship points. The roads in the Whangarei and Kaipara district were very popular among international drivers when we ran the New Zealand’s World Rally Championship round there for many years. I am sure the internationals will be greatly looking forward to rallying there and that might also be a reason for the high level of interest,” Mallard added.

The Hella International Rally of Whangarei is expected to attract 80 entries, including up to 40 competitors from eight countries in the Hella International Rally of Whangarei, along with a similar number in the supporting Clubman’s Rally, which is a round of the Rally Xtreme Challenge and Fram North Island Rally Series.

For further information on the Hella International Rally of Whangarei checkout the website www.rallywhangarei.co.nz

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