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World-wide Rally Star Sought In Whangarei

World-Wide Rally Star Sought In Whangarei

Young Kiwi rally star Hayden Paddon.
Photo credit: Alan McDonald, Macspeed Photography

The world governing body of motorsport, the FIA, recently launched the Pirelli-backed 'star driver' project to help younger drivers reach world championship level. This offers New Zealand's young rally stars competing in June's NAC Insurance Hella International Rally of Whangarei a fantastic opportunity to further their rallying career.

The Pirelli star driver scheme is a world-wide search for five young rally drivers from the 2008 and 2009 FIA regional championships; one each from the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions and two from Europe. In 2008, Rally of Whangarei and Rally Malaysia are the qualifying Asia Pacific events and, to qualify, drivers must have been under the age of 27 on 1 January 2008.

The successful drivers from each year will then contest six full World Rally Championship events the following season in a Super 2000 or Group N Car.

Chairman of the Rally of Whangarei organising committee Laurie Brenssell says this is an amazing chance for young New Zealand drivers to reach a new level in their rallying careers.

"The level of support being provided to the winning five Pirelli star drivers is outstanding and offers them a very real opportunity to develop a full-time WRC career," says Brenssell.

"For a young New Zealand rally driver, this is a fantastic chance to prove their talents, first, in the Whangarei event which the rally world will watch more closely, being the qualifying Pacific event. Then, the first and second-placed eligible competitors receive financial assistance to contest what effectively becomes the Pirelli star driver final at the qualifying Asia event - this year, Rally Malaysia - so this, in itself, is a great opportunity to compete outside New Zealand that our young stars may not have had before."

To be eligible, the drivers must be of the right age and driving a car that qualifies for the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC).

"This effectively means any driver aged under 27 and running a four-wheel-drive or two-wheel-drive Group N car eligible for the APRC can enter Rally Whangarei and put themselves forward for the Pirelli star driver competition," explains Brenssell. "Many of our young rally stars are competing in the Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC), which includes the Whangarei event, and we expect to see many of them take full advantage of this opportunity."

The current NZRC competitors who are eligible for the Pirelli star driver competition include:

* Hayden Paddon, age 20, South Canterbury

* Mark Tapper, age 26, Auckland

* Sloan Cox, age 16, Rotorua

* Brad Ayling, age 25, Inglewood

* Andre Meier, age 18, Cambridge

* Kirsty Nelson, age 17, Whangarei

* Patrick Malley, age 23, Auckland

* Chris Lange, age 25, Invercargill

* Ben Jagger, age 18, Whangarei

Brenssell also highlights the fact that eligible drivers from other countries in the Pacific region are expected to compete in the Whangarei event with an assistance package in place as part of the scheme to help them get to New Zealand. "We expect a couple of very competitive young Australians, at least."

The scheme also provides the winning five drivers with funding for personal development, fitness and safety programmes, all underwritten by Pirelli, the official tyre supplier to the FIA World Rally Championship.

During the 2008 and 2009 Pirelli star driver competitions, ways to develop the scheme will be considered, with possible enhancements including the opportunity for the most successful star driver to be offered a test drive by a WRC team.

The Pirelli star driver contest in the Asia Pacific region incorporates the following points:

* The qualifying events in 2008 are Rally Whangarei and Rally Malaysia and, in 2009, Rally Canberra and Rally Indonesia;

* Competitors must be under the age of 27 on 1 January in the year of the regional championship, i.e. 1 January 2008 for this year's Asia Pacific qualifying events, and be permanent residents of a country within the Asia or Pacific regions;

* Competitors from all countries in the region will be eligible, regardless of registration for the APRC;

* Competitors may use any car that qualifies for the APRC;

* On each qualifying event, eligible drivers will be awarded points for consistency of speed. Three points will be awarded for each fastest stage time, two points for second fastest and one point for third fastest on each stage;

* On each qualifying event, a separate classification for the Pirelli 'star driver' will be drawn from the general classification;

* The first and second placed eligible competitors from the Pacific event will receive financial assistance to contest the qualifying Asia event, i.e. the Pirelli 'star driver' final;

* The overall eligible winner of the Asia event will be named the Pirelli 'star driver' of the region and will contest six FIA World Rally Championship events the following season.

For more information about NAC Insurance Hella International Rally of Whangarei, please visit


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