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Iraq war leads to defections from Rally NZ


Iraq war leads to defections from Propecia Rally New Zealand

The war in Iraq has had an effect on next week's 33rd Propecia Rally New Zealand.

Two drivers from the Japanese Subaru Rally Team have withdrawn from the rally, which is the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Australian-based Dean Herridge with co-driver Glenn MacNeall and Norihiko Katsuta with Kohei Kusaka were officially withdrawn by the Subaru Rally Team Japan this week.

The team cited uncertainty over the international situation with the war in Iraq as the reason for their withdrawal. The same team also withdrew two entrants from Rally New Zealand two years ago following the terrorist attacks in the United States.

``We were officially advised of the withdrawal earlier this week,'' Gary Upson, General Manager of Propecia Rally New Zealand said.

``It's unfortunate for the team and the drivers. But it's company policy and we respect their decision.''

The war in Iraq has also hit the pockets of organisers of the Propecia Rally New Zealand when tobacco company Philip Morris withdrew from planned corporate hospitality at the event.

``We were told that the parent company in the United States has banned all promotion activity and international flights while the war in Iraq is on,'' Upson said.

There has been one further defection with Auckland's Shane Watkin forced to withdraw when he was unable to complete building his new rally car in time.

A field of 83 cars will lineup for the 33rd Propecia Rally New Zealand, which gets underway with the official shakedown near Helensville and Ceremonial Start in Aotea Square in downtown Auckland on Thursday April 10.

The rally proper starts on Friday with the first two days centred on the Kaipara township of Paparoa, north of Auckland, before returning for the popular super special stage at Manukau City on Saturday evening. Sunday's final day moves to the northern Waikato at Te Akau and Maramarua Forest before the official finish at the Manukau Sportsbowl at 3.30pm.

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