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Series leader upbeat about Propecia Rally NZ

Series leader upbeat about Propecia Rally NZ

World championship co-leader Markko Martin is upbeat about his chances at next month’s Propecia Rally New Zealand.

Martin drove his Ford Focus to victory in the last round in Mexico and is looking to repeat that in the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship in New Zealand from 15-18 April.

The Estonian, along with team-mate Francois Duval, was encouraged by a successful shakedown for their new WRC2004 Ford on gravel stages in Portugal, to assimilate conditions for New Zealand.

The upgraded Ford Focus, with the 2004-specification Cosworth engine and new front bumper, will make its competitive debut in New Zealand.

``We completed quite a lot of development work, which went well," Martin said. "We learned some things, which are the aim of any test programme, and I was pleased with the way it went."

Martin has failed to finish in the last two Rally New Zealand events but is buoyed by his win in Mexico and the new Ford Focus, which will also come up against the updated Citroen Xsara, the Peugeot 307 with its brand new 5-speed gearbox, Mitsubishi’s latest Lancer and the new Subaru Impreza WRC2004 for the first time in Rally New Zealand.

The Subaru impressed in its first outing in Mexico, with world champion Petter Solberg setting fastest time in nine of the 15 special stages.

"At the moment, I'm not worried about what happened in Mexico," he said. "There are lots of unknowns about Mexico, like the altitude and tyres. But, if he sets nine fastest times in New Zealand, then maybe I'll be a bit more worried."

The Propecia-sponsored event starts with two super special stages at Manukau City on the evening of Thursday 15 April. The first full day on Friday is in the Kaipara region before returning for two further super special stages at Manukau City. Saturday’s racing returns to Kaipara, with the last day in the Waikato region near Raglan. The final stage will be the internationally acclaimed Whaanga Coast, with the ceremonial finish in downtown Auckland city on Sunday afternoon.

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