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Propecia Rally New Zealand retains April date

Propecia Rally New Zealand retains April date

Propecia Rally New Zealand has retained its early season date on the World Rally Championship calendar for 2004.

The 35th Rally New Zealand has been provisionally set for April 1-4, and will be the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the same position as this year’s event which was also run in April.

The FIA Rallies Commission has decided against the suggestion from several of the manufacturer’s teams to run Rally New Zealand back-to-back with Rally Australia. The Perth-based rally is tentatively placed late in the year.

Rally New Zealand officials are pleased the event has been ratified for New Zealand again, in the midst of pressure on the FIA to opt for new events in more lucrative markets in Asia and North America.

``We continue to run this event on a very tight budget, but with the massive help from a key sponsor in Merck Sharp and Dohme and thousands of volunteers, we continue to produce a world class event,’’ Morrie Chandler, chairman of Rally New Zealand said.

``Once again the drivers have rated our rally as the best roads in the world. At present that’s what keeps them coming back.

``That may not continue to be the case forever as commercial considerations come more in to play.’’

Mexico is tipped to be added to the draft calendar, likely in the place of an European event.

Mr Chandler said the Board will now look at the route for next year’s event, with the three-year, host city contract up for renegotiation.

``Our preference would be to retain the current consortium of both Auckland and Manukau City Councils, Tourism Auckland and Sky City,’’ Mr Chandler said.

``It has been mutually beneficial to us all, and we trust that we can move forward to a longer term relationship.

``With the America’s Cup no longer in the city, we believe that Rally New Zealand becomes an even more attractive proposition.’’

Mr Chandler said the Board is currently discussing the format for next year’s event with WRC promoters and the FIA, and would not rule out a return to the traditional New Zealand event with three different service parks.

This year’s event trialled two days based in the Kaipara Region after pressure from the FIA to move to the single service park model used for much of the European events.

Mr Chandler said the April date proved more difficult for the organisation this year.

``We only had a five-month turnaround from the 2002 event, which may have been a factor. But our volunteers found it was more difficult because the lead-up work occurs at a time which is considerably busier with their own businesses and work.’’

The final dates go before the World MotorSport Council for ratification next month.

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