New Zealand Rally Champion David Holder headlines a record field of 132 cars in this year’s DriveSouth International Otago Rally, to be held on April 8 and 9.
Driving the factory-backed Hyundai i20 AP4+ that WRC star Hayden Paddon drove to victory in last year’s event (pictured right), Holder is one of six new-breed AP4 cars in the field, along with new generation cars from Ford, Mitsubishi and VW.
Fifty-three cars (nine of which are included in the Classic field) have registered for the opening round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC), with a further 36 cars entered in the concurrent Allcomers rally.
In addition, a strong field of 52 cars will start the popular International Otago Classic Rally, headlined by former WRC star, and last year’s event winner, Markko Märtin from Estonia.
The NZRC event will be closely fought out with a host of top-line drivers all fancying their chances of taking victory in the opening round of the series.
2015 champion, Ben Hunt, is back in his Subaru NZ supported WRX STI, while Matt Summerfield (Subaru), Sloan Cox (Mitsubishi) and Graham Featherstone (Mitsubishi) will all be in with a chance.
Add to that the AP4 cars of local hero Emma Gilmour (Suzuki), Andrew Hawkeswood (Mazda), Glenn Inkster (Skoda), and new cars for Josh Marston (factory-backed Holden Barina) and Carl Davies in a Toyota Yaris, and picking a winner won’t be easy.
International entries from Australian Richie Dalton (Ford Fiesta) and Irishman Frank Kelly (Ford Escort) will also provide additional depth to the field.
Otago Rally manager, Norman Oakley, said that the Otago Sports Car Club was thrilled with what quickly became an oversubscribed entry list.
“The NZRC is enjoying an incredible resurgence at the moment, partly due to the success of Hayden Paddon, but also through the great work that MotorSport New Zealand and the NZRC promoters are doing,” Oakley said.
“This is a record entry for the Otago Rally, and while this will provide us with some challenges, we’re looking forward to a successful event.”
The field in the Stadium Cars Classic Rally is just as impressive. Along with Märtin (pictured right), four-time Australian Rally Champion, Simon Evans, will contest the rally for the first time, driving a Datsun Stanza, while regular front runners Regan Ross (Escort), Derek Ayson (Escort), and Marcus van Klink (Mazda) will all fancy their chances.
The Classic field includes eight Australian drivers, as the event continues to attract a strong following from across the Tasman.
A large contingent of Australian spectators is also expected to make the trek to Dunedin to watch the rally this year.
Starting at Dunedin’s Octagon on Friday, April 7, the event features 14 special stages on Saturday and Sunday, with a competitive distance of nearly 285 kilometres.
The rally once again includes famous stages such as Waipori Gorge, Whare Flat, McIntosh Road and Kuri Bush, as well as the popular tarmac stage around the streets of Dunedin on the first afternoon.