Drivers from 22 different nations will line-up to start Brother Rally New Zealand from 21 to 24 June, demonstrating the truly global nature of the event that will use roads in Northland, Kaipara, Raglan and Auckland regions.
Those drivers will come to New Zealand from vastly different parts of the globe – many from the modern home of rallying in Europe but also from as far away as the United States of America, South America, Asia and the Middle East.
"It truly is an international event in every sense of the word," says Peter (PJ) Johnston, chairman, Brother Rally New Zealand organising committee.
"Aside from manufacturer teams here representing some of the world's biggest automobile companies there are drivers, co-drivers, management, crew and spectators from all around the globe on our soil for a week," Johnston says.
"Not only is it important for New Zealand's tourist industry they all have a good time but it puts us front and centre of the world stage where we get to showcase all the reasons why we're significant."
France's eight-time reigning World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb headlines the international field, though he will receive strong challenges from the likes of teammate Mikko Hirvonen of Finland, fellow Finn Jari-Matti Latvala, Norway's Petter Solberg, Spaniard Dani Sordo, Russia's Yvgeny Novikov and young Estonian Ott Tänak. Adding to the cultural diversity, American Ken Block, Brazil's Paulo Nobre and Belgium's Thierry Neuville are also included at the top of the entry-list.
Despite the huge number of foreign drivers entered in this year's rally, there won't be any of our friends from Australia competing. For as long as Brother Rally New Zealand has been running, drivers from the other side of the Tasman sea have been attempting to conquer the scenic but challenging roads so vastly different to their homeland. New South Wales based Bruce Hodgson and co-driver Mike Mitchell are the only Australian's to have their name etched on the trophy having won in 1971 driving a Ford Cortina-Lotus. Australia's now 41-year long wait for a second victory will have to continue.
As well as the international contingent of 14 WRC cars, there are 14 in the Super 2000/Production World Rally Championship category (SWRC/PWRC) that includes Geraldine's Hayden Paddon in the S2000 Skoda Fabia. A further 16 teams round out the field, of which 11 are contesting the fourth round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, powered by Brother.
Another feature of this year's Brother Rally New Zealand is the fact that three notable female drivers will tackle the special stages around the upper North Island. Local star Emma Gilmour from Dunedin has been a regular starter since 2005 and will be joined by British driver Louise Cook, who is driving a Ford Fiesta ST and Swedish driver pairing Ramona Karlsson and Miriam Walfridsson in their Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X.
The teams first get together this coming Sunday 17 June where many of them will be taking part in the autograph session being held at the Rally Family Day from 12:30pm to 1:40pm inside the Auckland Viaduct Events Centre. A free-to-attend day, it includes a variety of educating and display activities before the venue is transformed in to the rally village – used by the teams as their home base for the week.
On the Monday all competitors begin event reconnaissance of the rally route, which will take two-and-a-half days. Then on Thursday 21 June a ticketed welcome function will officially open the event where the WRC drivers will select their starting positions based on their qualifying stage times. A new MotorExpo and FanZone will operate inside rally headquarters at the Viaduct Events Centre throughout Friday 22 June to Sunday 24 June. Entry is free and alongside great vehicle displays and interactive entertainment, fans can watch the only big screen television showing live rally footage from out on the course. Numerous prime and other spectator viewing areas offer excellent opportunities to watch the high speed action in person across all three days of the event. Sunday's action includes the free-for-everyone Auckland Domain super special stage before the ceremonial finish at 3:30pm near the Viaduct Events Centre on Auckland's waterfront.
Detailed spectator and ticket information and current news is available on the event website www.rallynz.org.nz