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New Zealand rally drivers Richard Mason and Chris West have been awarded scholarships to compete in November’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Mason, the current New Zealand Rally Champion, and West, the 2004 national champion, were selected from applicants by Rally New Zealand, who are keen to promote Kiwi drivers on to the world stage.

The 36th Propecia Rally New Zealand, the penultimate round of the World Rally Championship, takes place in and around Hamilton and the Waikato from 16-19 November.
The scholarship will entitle Mason and West to compete in the PWRC class at the New Zealand round of the World Championship, and is worth $7,000 to the drivers. This is the World Production car division that contests the final round of their world championship in New Zealand.

With the New Zealand Rally Championship now racing under the same specifications as the PWRC, it is an opportunity for the two New Zealand drivers to test themselves against the best.

“We’ve given starts to New Zealand drivers before but this is the first time that they’ve been allowed to enter in the PWRC class. That means they will be racing in the sharp end, and seeded just behind the World Championship drivers,” said Chris Carr, new chairman of Propecia Rally New Zealand.

“When cars are reseeded on the second day based on their finishing order from the previous day, then those two New Zealand drivers could find themselves at the top if they are good enough.”
Mason and West are both thrilled with the announcement.

“It’s my dream to be able to compete in the Production Car World Championship. This will give us an opportunity to compete head-on with them and if we can do well it certainly might be the springboard we are looking for to make it on to the WRC,” Mason said.

His fellow Subaru rival West said it would be a challenge his team is itching to take up.

“We have raced in the WRC round here at the back of the field with the other New Zealand entries. Now we will be right up there with the big boys,” West said. “We have got a lot of work to do now but I believe we can be really competitive against those best teams. It’s an amazing opportunity.”

Whangarei rookie Kirsty Nelson will also earn a start in Propecia Rally New Zealand.

Rally New Zealand offered a scholarship for an up-and-coming woman with no previous experience at this level to take part in the World Rally Championship round.

“We want more women in our sport and hope this will encourage them. We have a few who have done extremely well like Emma Gilmour who has come through the ranks,” Mr Carr said.

Nelson, whose father is president of the Northland Car Club, won the Clubmans division of the Rally of Rotorua earlier this year.

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