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World Rally teams set to do battle in New Zealand

10th March 2004
Attention Sports Editors

World Rally teams set to do battle in New Zealand

The City of Auckland is to become a Mecca for motorsport enthusiasts as New Zealand gets set to play host to round four of the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship next week.

The Propecia sponsored event has attracted 58 international competitors from 24 countries including the world's leading drivers from manufacturers such as Subaru, Citroen, Peugeot, Ford and Mitsubishi.

Leading the charge in the World Rally Championship is Frenchman Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) who has won two of the opening three rounds in Sweden and Monte Carlo. Loeb is equal on points with Estonian Markko Martin (Ford) who was victorious in the last round in Mexico. They are closely followed by Finland's Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) who was victorious in New Zealand in 2000, 2002 and 2003.

New Zealand is also round three of the 2004 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship for standard "showroom" cars. New Zealand is the only round of this championship in which all 20 registered competitors have elected as a points scoring round.

The Production Championship is currently being lead by Spain's Daniel Sola, with Japan's Toshi Arai in second and Finland's Jani Paasonen in third. Arai, a regular competitor in New Zealand, has Kiwi Tony Sircombe as his co-driver.

Leading the New Zealand contingent is the current New Zealand Production Car Champion Chris West who will this year campaign a new Subaru Impreza STi prepared by Possum Bourne Motorsport.

It is expected that West will have a fierce battle with Waiuku's Stumpy Holmes for the first New Zealander home. Holmes is driving the Subaru Impreza that Bruce Herbert drove to National Championship honours last year. With these two drivers expected to be joined in the battle by current New Zealand junior Champion Richard Mason (Masterton) who will this year also campaign a Subaru.

This year's rally is expected to be unique in that it will be the only event on the World Rally calendar that will use the new "Mille Pistes" system. Under this system competitors get to undertake a single reconnaissance pass of the stages several days before the event followed by a second pass of the stages on the morning of the day that they will compete on the stages.

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.


© Scoop Media

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