Rally New Zealand ready for action
Raikkonen opted to miss the long journey south in favour of more testing
A total of 56 crews make up the entry list for next week’s Rally New Zealand, with drivers from 17 different countries.
Six different manufacturers are represented, with nine World Rally Cars leading the field away. Unsurprisingly the man in front is Sebastien Loeb, who will be hoping to repeat his victory of 2008: the last time that New Zealand formed part of the World Rally Championship.
Appearances are not always quite what they seem though, as Loeb’s victory only came after Ford was dramatically denied a one-two finish following an accident for Jari-Matti Latvala and a puncture for Mikko Hirvonen.
The Cockermouth-based squad is back for revenge this year, with Hirvonen and Latvala starting day one in third and fourth places on the road: an ideal position in the dusty gravel of New Zealand. The other Fords on round five of the series will be driven by Matthew Wilson, Henning Solberg and Federico Villagra.
The factory Citroens of Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo will be backed up by just a single Citroen Junior Team entry for Sebastien Ogier, with Kimi Raikkonen having opted to miss the long journey south in favour of more testing.
New Zealand also counts for a round of the S2000 World Rally Championship and the Production Car World Rally Championship, contributing to a healthy contingent of 46 Group N cars.
Amongst the stars of the Group N entry are the local drivers nominated to score PWRC points: Kingsley Thompson, Richard Mason and Emma Gilmour - who is co-driven by former factory navigator Glenn Macneall, her long-time partner.
While Raikkonen may be absent, there is still a former single-seater star in the Rally New Zealand line-up: ex-Champ Car driver Michel Jourdain. The Mexican retired from the American series at the end of 2004, having notched up one pole position, two wins and nine podium finishes, before making the switch to rallying.
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