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Exciting battle for leading Kiwi at Propecia Rally


Exciting battle for leading Kiwi at Propecia Rally New Zealand

Possum Bourne’s reign as leading Kiwi at the Propecia Rally New Zealand may be under threat in the 32nd championship event starting in Auckland tomorrow (Thursday).

Bourne, who sealed his seventh straight Australian Rally Championship title two weeks ago, has rushed back across the Tasman with his winning Subaru car for this week’s Rally New Zealand.

He has decided to run his Group N production car in the event, but will come up against a number of top Kiwi drivers with more powerful Group A machines.

Leading the way will be Bruce Herbert who is aiming for his third consecutive Parker Enzed New Zealand Rally Championship, run in conjunction with the world championship event.

The Palmerston North Subaru driver has dominated the national rallying scene for the past three seasons and is on the verge of becoming only the second driver to win three consecutive Gold Stars. United States-based Rod Millen was the first between 1975 and 1977.

Herbert won the opening three rounds of the championship, but an unexpected failure at Hawkes Bay means the Manawatu driver must seal it at the Rally New Zealand this week.

Masterton’s Richard Mason has been the find of the season, capping his season with victory at Rally Hawkes Bay and was last month selected as Propecia Young Driver of the Year. He lies second early 40 points behind Herbert on the NZ Rally table.

Mitsubishi driver Lewis Scott (Lower Hutt) is another with a realistic chance of toppling Herbert at the final round; after a consistent season led by a fourth place at the Rally of Rotorua.

The bonus points on offer for Rally NZ means a number of other drivers will be in the championship hunt including fourth-placed Todd Bawden (Auckland) fifth placed Glenn Smith (Hawera), both in Mitsubishi Lancers.

Others Kiwis with opportunities include two time national champion Geof Argyle (Feilding) , talented Waiuku driver Stumpy Holmes, and his Mitsubishi Ralliart team-mate, 21-year-old Mark Tapper (Auckland).

While Bourne will be down on horsepower against this group, it may be a case of ignoring his remarkable talents at their peril.

Drivers completed three days of reconnaissance yesterday. The shakedown test for drivers takes place at Helensville and Kaukapakapa, north of Auckland, tomorrow with the rally show at 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, 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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