Bourne honoured with Rally NZ signature stage
20 January 2004
Attention Sports Editors
Bourne honoured with Rally New Zealand signature stage
Rally legend Possum Bourne, who died tragically last year, will not be forgotten in this year's Rally New Zealand.
Organisers of the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship from 15 to 18 April have named a stage after Bourne - suitably the longest and toughest of the rally. Two stages on the first leg of the rally in the Kaipara region north of Auckland have been joined for a single long afternoon stage, to be called Possum.
``Possum was synonymous with this event and we wanted to remember him in some way during the rally,'' Rally New Zealand chairman Morrie Chandler said.
``This is the signature stage on the first day of the rally. It's a long stage that may prove quite critical to the overall rally. It will demand skill, speed and concentration - all the traits that made Possum Bourne so special.''
Organisers of the Propecia sponsored event were slightly disappointed that original plans for the stage have been pruned back at the request of the FIA.
``Initially this combined stage was to be 56kms which would have made it the longest stage in the World Rally Championships. However we were asked to shorten it because of concerns over tyre wear.
``At 48kms it will still be a real test, but just not quite the absolute test that we first sought.''
The full itinerary for the event was released today. Rally New Zealand will open with a Super Special Stage in Manukau City on Thursday 15 April, with the first full day on Friday including five stages in the Kaipara region north of Auckland, with a total of 142kms. It concludes with a second night of Super Special Stages at Manukau City. Saturday's stages are again in Kaipara with eight special stages over 144.5kms. The final day on Sunday sees a return to the Raglan region in Waikato with six special stages over 115kms, finishing the event with the spectacular Whaanga Coast stage.
The drivers return for a ceremonial finish at the America's Cup Village in the Viaduct Basin in downtown Auckland.
The rally will cover 401kms of special stages with a further 1012kms of touring.
``We believe this itinerary will offer a special experience for drivers, with the tried and tested roads in the north, two nights of super special stages at Manukau and also a return to what many say is the most spectacular rally roads in the world at Raglan.''
Rally New Zealand organisers also confirmed they will run with the April's event under the new Mille Piste formula.
The FIA last week deferred plans for mandatory introduction of the new format, and offered rally organisers an alternative system. The Mille Piste system, aimed at cutting costs, includes a single pass through stages in reconnaissance and the second run each morning before the competition stages later in the day. The alternative Two-Plus-Three system allows for the traditional two days of reconnaissance and three days rally.
``We are very keen to test the Mille Piste system to give rally organisers, the FIA and the teams first hand experience of the format,'' Chandler said
``In our view it offers real benefits in reducing costs, especially for the privateer drivers from New Zealand, Australia and the Asia Pacific region. It's a shorter event and they can complete both reconnaissance and racing in their rally cars.
``We prepared for both formats, and planned a number of itineraries for the event. While the FIA have now allowed for both alternatives, we considered all aspects very carefully and believe that the Mille Piste format is the best solution for us.
``It's fair to say that most events were opposed to the system when it was announced. But Rally New Zealand took a proactive approach in developing two alternative itineraries. We are very confident that we will deliver an event that will be well accepted by the World Rally Championship community.''
A full itinerary is available at www.rallynz.org.nz