New Zealand rally team pairing of Mark Tapper and Jeff Judd return to competition for this weekend’s final round of the 2009 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) when they start the three-day Rally Great Britain, which is also the sixth and final event in the inaugural Pirelli Star Driver programme.
Having endured a mentally-exhausting seven month campaign in the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA)-initiated Pirelli driver scholarship, Tapper (28, Brookby) and Judd (Christchurch) head to the UK with the sole goal of getting to the finish.
“We constantly make it our number one goal – finishing. I really don’t know what sort of luck is needed, but this time more than ever – we just want to finish – we need that result,” said Tapper, who stayed in Europe after the Spanish rally two weeks ago.
Driving the Ralliart Italia-prepared Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X, Tapper has been dogged by a series of failures that has sidelined the Kiwi pairing at each of the previous five WRC events specified for the Pirelli Star Drivers.
Although Tapper has not previously contested Rally Great Britain, preparations for the three days through Welsh forests bring an atmosphere of familiarity, with terrain similar to home.
“People say Rally GB (Great Britain) is the most similar to New Zealand of the rallies I am doing in the World Rally Championship. Reece Jones is going to being there to help me out at the last rally – and he’s someone who has had a couple of podium results at this level.
“From what I hear, day one is quite similar to the Maramarua forest stages, which used to run in Rally New Zealand. I’d be pretty pleased about that – we run a rally school in Maramarua. So we’ll probably feel more at home in the UK, compared to some of my team-mates.
“I think the main thing is getting your head around the fog. This year the event is being run a lot earlier than normal and, from what I’ve been told, we aren’t likely to as much fog, although it is something the Brits cope well with. However I have a little trick up my sleeve.”
Competing against 63 other teams, including the 14 manufacturer-run World Rally Cars, Tapper and Judd have four other Pirelli Star Driver team-mates from around the world to jostle with. This is the last time they will all run together, and Tapper says it will be quite surreal his year is coming to a close.
“It is going to be hard going into Rally GB knowing it’s our last event of the season. After this, it’s back to the drawing-board to try and get something signed and sealed for next season.”
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