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Drivers eager to attack on their favourite roads


Drivers eager to attack on their favourite rally roads

New Zealand remains the favourite stop for the world’s leading rally drivers, here for this week’s Propecia Rally New Zealand starting on Thursday.

The fast and flowing gravel roads and back-country scenery ensure that Rally New Zealand is top on the list for overseas drivers, which has attracted every winner of the last 12 years back to Auckland.

The event, comprising 26 special stages over 414kms of competition on a route of nearly 1800kms in Auckland, Waikato and Northland, has attracted more overseas entries than any other of the 14 rounds of the World Rally Championship.

There are 52 overseas entrants in the 81 starters, the fourth highest number of total entries behind Acropolis, Germany and Finland.

There are seven world champions in the field with 14 world rally championship titles between them.

Four-time Rally New Zealand winner Carlos Sainz is rich in his praise.

``The roads in New Zealand are the best in the world from a driver's view,"
Sainz said.

``They're flat and smooth and we don't have to worry about rocks damaging the cars. It's usually down to pure speed because we can drive flat out from the start.’’

His Ford team-mate and three time winner in New Zealand, Colin McRae is also a fan.

``Not surprisingly, I've got pretty good memories of New Zealand," McRae said.

``It's one of my favourite rallies. We drive on nice, smooth roads and it's an event where flat out consistency usually wins. There's no real unpredictability to the stages and the cars have an easy time there.’’

Even those with less success, like Frenchman Francois Delecour, rate Propecia Rally New Zealand.

``“I love New Zealand, I think it’s the best rally in the world - so fast, so flowing, just fantastic,” Delecour said.
``I don’t have so much experience there but I have always gone well in the past. I was leading in 2000 before the gearbox broke and was setting times I was very pleased with last year before rolling. So yes, I really love the event and for me the key is to play with the car and get pleasure from driving it to gain confidence and a good feeling.’’

The quality does not stop with the WRC drivers.

Apart from the 16 WRC works drivers that includes six world champions with 13 world titles between them, there’s also the 1984 world champion Stig Blomqvist (Sweden) in the event, and two world Group N champions in Alex Fiorio (1987) and Manfried Stohl (2000).

Included is the current Asia Pacific Rally Champion and current WRC Group N leader Karamjit Singh.

Six national rally champions will start including Ramon Ferreyros (Peru), Dimitar Iliev (Bulgaria), Martin Rowe (Great Britain), Peter Tsjion (Belgium), Possum Bourne (Australia) and Bruce Herbert (New Zealand).

Some of the WRC teams have also sent other drivers including Hyundai’s tarmac specialist driver Tomasz Kuchar, Peugeot’s latest works driver signed for next year, Juuso Pykalisto and Subaru works driver Toshi Arai.

Drivers complete three days of reconnaissance tomorrow. The shakedown test for drivers takes place at Helensville and Kaukapakapa, north of Auckland, on Thursday 3 October with the rally show at Aotea Square in downtown Auckland from 2pm followed by the ceremonial start at 6pm.

The first day sees the rally head to Waikato for eight special stages with the service park in Raglan on Friday 4 October, ending with the Super Special Stage at Manukau City at 7pm. Saturday includes 10 special stages north of Auckland, based at Ruawai, with a final eight special stages south of Auckland on Sunday in the Maramarua Forest where the service is at Te Kauwhata before the official finish and ceremony at the Manukau Sports Bowl at 3.30pm.


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