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Possum to tackle World Rally Championship

Possum to tackle World Rally Championship

Possum Bourne will be taking on the World in 2003 in a standard production Subaru Impreza WRX STI.

Winner of the Group N class on this year’s World Championship Rally of New Zealand, Bourne will contest six of the seven events in the World Production Car Rally Championship next year, starting with February’s Rally of Sweden.

“It’s a tremendous challenge,” said Bourne, the three times Asia Pacific champion and seven times Australian series winner, who will be accompanied by his regular co-driver of the last couple of seasons, Australian Mark Stacey.

“I’m really excited about it. Doing a world championship is something you dream about.”

It’s the first time in his long career that Bourne has been able to tackle a full World Rally Championship schedule. Since he first competed outside New Zealand in 1986, Bourne has only ever done selected WRC events.

Even when he drove for the works team for three seasons, Bourne was primarily employed to do the Asia Pacific Championship, which he won in 1993 and ’94.

Bourne is under no illusions about the task ahead. He has never competed in any of the European rounds of the championship, one of which Corsica is on tarmac, a surface he has had only limited competition experience on.

“I think we have a good chance of winning,” said Bourne. “The New Zealand and Australian events are like home to me and I’ve done Argentina before.”

But the logistics of competing world wide represent another challenge for the Pukekohe based team. Some equipment has already been sea freighted to Sweden and the car, which is a bare bodyshell at the moment, will be airfreighted there in mid-January.

A second car will be used for some events, with Bourne hoping to debut the latest updated version of the Impreza WRX STI on the Rally of New Zealand in April.

Support for the campaign has come from Subaru in Japan with additional backing from Subaru in New Zealand and Australia with Pirelli providing the tyres.

Bourne’s performance in adapting to a Group N Impreza for the first time this year and winning the Australian title for a seventh consecutive time and performing well in two events in Japan helped clinch the backing.

“But Subaru Japan told me the way the team operated and the response of the spectators and fans in Japan in particular was just as important.”

And such is Bourne’s standing in Australian rallying, that administrators there have altered the date of two rounds of the series across the Tasman so Australian events do not clash with the WRC.

“We’ll only miss one heat of the Queensland round, so we can have another shot at the Aussie title as well,” said Bourne. That campaign will be backed by Subaru Australia.

“It’s going to be a hectic year running one team in Australia and another all round the World, but it’s a great opportunity.”

Bourne is also likely to do two events in Japan, the Hokkaido Rally and the Alpine Rally, which he finished first and second in respectively this year.

The World Rally Championship calendar is. –

Rally of Sweden 5-9 February Rally of New Zealand 9-13 April Rally of Argentina 7-11 May Rally of Cyprus 18-22 June Rally of Australia 3-7 September Tour de Corse 15-19 October

Australian events are. -

Western Australia 28-30 March Canberra 22-24 May Queensland 13-15 June New South Wales 4-6 July South Australia 8-10 August Victoria 3-5 October Tasmania 14-16 November

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