Rally New Zealand, the organisers of the premier 2011 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, are offering a generous stimulus support and mentoring package for competitors contesting the two-wheel drive category that starts this weekend in Otago 8 – 10 April.
Contested over five rounds, the series caters for a wide range of competition categories that includes the entry-level Group N (production) 2WD and Kiwi-2 teams that make up the 31-strong championship field.

Instigated by Peter (‘PJ’) Johnston, chairman of Rally New Zealand and assistant championship co-ordinator Paul Burborough, the scholarship is aimed at offering experienced resource and relieving some of the cost burden.

“Basically it’s a leg-up scholarship that everyone entered to the two-wheel-drive class has the opportunity to draw on,” says Johnston.

“In the past Rally New Zealand has run the Rising Stars scholarship, this derivative is to encourage competitors at the sport’s entry level.* It’s crucial we support the grass-roots competitor, as a way of finding the talent who can keep us on the international map – just as previous Rising Star recipients Stephen Barker and Hayden Paddon are doing now.”

Which is a point Burborough says was well supported by related industry.

“The competitors apply in writing for the package which consists of ten Dunlop rally tyres, a supply of Gull fuel, Castrol lubricants and each one gets free entry in to one of the following events: Rally Otago, Rally New Zealand, Rally Wairarapa or Rally Hawke’s Bay,” he said.

“Additionally we are introducing a mentoring programme, where those selected get to share their pre-event reconnaissance experiences with a prominent top-level competitor.* For Otago, Castrol backed and former rally champion Chris West will provide expertise to the group.”

“The successful applicants then have some obligations to those who have provided the support by being available for promotional activities as part of the championship as well as carrying some Castrol, Gull and Dunlop livery on their cars.* They also have to provide pre and post event reports during the series – which is the basis that feeds media outlets so crucial at providing a return to sponsors and business partners.”

With four teams in the category two field eligible, Dunlop New Zealand motorsport manager Richard Fraser says they are keen to support the initiative at assisting budding talent.

“It’s there to help bring the younger guys through as part of our own Dunlop branding,” said Fraser.* “Plus it keeps the wheels of business moving – by helping out where we can.”

Similarly, Castrol New Zealand’s marketing manager Jayne McEwan see’s mutual return in supporting those who have put real commitment in to starting at ground level.

“Really the biggest part of the package has been each team actually making the commitment to joining a New Zealand championship.* We recognise the effort that takes and the conditions they will have to brave in their pursuit.* In joining with Rally New Zealand we’re happy to contribute our enduring Castrol product range, aimed at giving them one less thing to worry about when they’re competing,” she said.

The four drivers applying include Tauranga’s Phil Campbell (Ford Fiesta ST), Nelson’s Ben Hunt (Ford Fiesta ST), Christchurch’s Josh Marston (Ford Fiesta) and Rangiora’s Matt Summerfield (Skoda Fabia diesel).

All are entered for this weekend’s DriveSouth Rally of Otago, which starts from Dunedin’s central city Octagon at 7pm on Friday 8 April.* The journey continues across Saturday and Sunday, covering a 270 km course spread across the region, before returning for a ceremonial finish at the railway station at 3:55pm.

The series then continues with Rally New Zealand based at Hampton Downs on 7 and 8 May, Rally Wairarapa on 28 to 29 May, the International Rally of Whangarei from 15 to 17 July and Rally Hawke’s Bay from 20 to 21 August.


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