Rd.5 Rally New Zealand

Production Car World Rally Championship
 
31 Aug. to 2 Sep. 2007

PREVIEW

Back Down Under - Waiting to Get On Top

30 August 2007
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The P-WRC swings back into action this weekend after a three-month break, and the locale couldn't be better! A favourite among all the competitors, Rally New Zealand is also one of the more demanding and certainly most beautiful events on the entire calendar.

Last season it was run as the final round of the year, and the scene of then Production driver Jari-Matti Latvala's second win on the trot, rounding out a superb season for the Finn. Taking the championship crown, Nasser Al Attiyah concluded a fantastic season that saw him also take a pair of victories on his way to the title.

If last year's results are anything to go by (where the top four positions were occupied by Imprezas), it should be a very strong event for the SUBARU-equipped competitors. Back again after taking second place last November, local man and out-and-out flyer Richard Mason will surely be a threat to the rest of the field.

Current championship points' leader and 2005 P-WRC champion Toshi Arai presently has nearly double the points of his closest challenger, Mitsubishi driver Mark Higgins (29 - 15). The nearest Impreza-driving rival is Mirco Baldacci on 11 points.

The stages follow a similar route to those used last year, with the Service Park once again located in the town of Hamilton, where the Ceremonial Start gets underway on Thursday night.

George Donaldson - STI Group N Project General Manager:

"We had a full house for the SUBARU Production World Rally test on Monday. Of course, we invited all the Mitsubishi drivers as well.

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"We started off with our leader Toshi Arai, who had a great day, testing the car all day long. He seemed to come away with a really happy result - as did his teammate Takuma Kamada. Takuma had an absolutely great performance today and we're expecting great things from him on the rally this weekend.

"Mirco Baldacci, another one of our top drivers, had a an absolutely super day; he's really happy with the road and also very pleased with the set-up on the car. The drivers were faced with a range of conditions - a bit of dry, a bit of wet, so it was a great chance for them to fine-tune their set-ups very nicely.

"Niall Mc Shea got a good sorting on his car. He worked with his head down and did a great job.

"Patrik Flodin played with his suspension settings. He's desperate to be able to show the form in his Manfred Stohl Racing SUBARU that he normally shows in his own car when he's driving in Europe. He did quite a round robin on his test settings, but came back to what he had found to be the quickest settings. As we saw in Greece, Partik was fast. He's coming off a very good result in Finland where he won Group N.

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"QMMF will of course not have Nasser (who won't be here this weekend due to a recent injury on other event), but in his place there's Misfer Al-Marri who spent the day getting used the unique characteristics of the roads on this event.

"Looking to the local drivers we had Richard Mason, who has a great chance of scoring a terrific result here. He pronounced himself happy with his test, as did Emma Gilmour, who is still regaining her confidence in what was an excellent day's test for her. I'm hoping that we're going to see Emma really getting back into the way of things.

"Evgeniy Vertunov from the Russian Uspenskiy team also went well, on what can only be described as a brilliant test road - as it always is. The road started off a little bit wet in the morning, becoming dry by lunchtime. We catered for a total of 200 people including the Mitsubishi competitors so it was a very busy test. We generally had a very good day, with no testing problems for our guys at all."

The Ceremonial Start gets underway on Thursday night in Hamilton, before the opening leg commences on Friday morning.