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Excitement Mounts As Race Creeps Closer

Around NZ Airrace Press Release – 17 March 04

Excitement is mounting as the start date for the Around New Zealand Air Race creeps closer. There remains just two weeks to go until registration day, for an event that has been more than a year in the making. Speculation is rife as to who will take away the $7500 first prize for the two week long race.

Likened in a way to 'airborne orienteering', contestants will have to use all the pilot skill, knowledge of their race aircraft, navigation techniques and teamwork skills that they can muster to do well in the event.

Entrants have already left home to get to the start line, from the UK and USA. One is traveling by container ship, another via Hong Kong and Singapore. David McDonald, a veteran of air races since the 1980's is hoping to set a world speed record flying his Beech Bonanza 1,200 nm from Bankstown, Australia to Auckland, N.Z. on 25 March. Six race aircraft are flying across from Australia. Reports have been made of teams out practicing their navigation and spot landings; and trying to figure out how to get another few knots out of their race machines.

Race organizers have been very impressed with the level of support for the race that has been demonstrated around the country. Regional councils and aero clubs in areas being visited by the race have been hugely helpful in assisting with organizing functions and activities for race participants, and in many areas the local mayor will be officially starting race legs from their local airfield.

Contestants will be packing a lot into their two weeks. The event will start with registration and scrutinizing of aircraft on the 27th of March, with an official briefing on the 28th, prior to race start on the 29th. The race route then covers the length and breadth of the country, with stops in Kerikeri, Tauranga, New Plymouth, Taupo, Hastings, Gisborne, Masterton, Blenheim, Rangiora, Nelson, Hokitika, Wigram, Omarama, Te Anau and Invercargill. The race will be in Gisborne in time for competitors to support their fellow aviators at the Royal New Zealand Aero Club national competitions, and finishing at Cromwell to allow easy transit to the internationally acclaimed Warbirds over Wanaka airshow being held at Easter. A function will be held at the Wigram Air Force Museum, and rumour has it that race participants are to be treated to a whitebait meal at Hokitika.

Supporters are encouraged to get down to their local airfield to welcome the race as it passes through their local region. More information, including race updates, rules and links to the websites of competitors and sponsors can be found on the race website www.airrace.co.nz.

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