This month's Brother Rally New Zealand will feature two drivers that could fly under the radar of Kiwi rally fans attention, in what will be the seventh round of the World Rally Championship for 2012.
M-Sport Ford drivers Ott Tänak and Evgeny Novikov are two young drivers making a name for themselves in the 2012 World Rally Championship and will provide some stern competition for the regular household names that are well-known to New Zealand fans.
Tänak, the 24-year-old Estonian, has been tipped by some experts as a future world champion and will make his first ever appearance on these shores when the event runs from 21 – 24 June.
"Not only will this be my first visit to Brother Rally New Zealand with Ford, but this will be my first visit to New Zealand," Tanak says. "Obviously I won't have anything to compare the Ford Fiesta RS WRC to on the stages, but I am really looking forward to the rally.
"I have heard that the roads are really quick and I can't wait to test them out for myself."
Tänak pronounces the fast and flowing gravel stages he's been told about in New Zealand sound similar to those he grew up on in Estonia and while he doesn't know exactly what to expect, he's confident he'll be ready for whatever the wintery New Zealand conditions throws at the drivers.
"So long as we have no snow, we should be okay," he adds. "The New Zealand conditions seem to have always provided an amazing backdrop to the rally, and I'm sure this year will be no different whatever the weather."
Tänak has seen footage and photos from previous years and says he's looking forward to visiting such a beautiful place.
"For sure I cannot wait to get out on the stages. I have heard a lot about the fast roads in New Zealand and I can't wait to go flat out - I expect it to be a lot of fun to drive.
"As for New Zealand itself, the landscapes and countryside around the stages looks breath-taking and it will be really nice to see it for myself."
Tänak will be joined in the M-Sport charge by Russian driver Evgeny Novikov.
The 21-year-old has been to New Zealand once before but that was back in 2008 when he was driving in the production category car. He says he's looking forward to having the extra power of a World Rally Car this time around.
"The Ford Fiesta RS WRC is more restless and sharper in its handling," he says. "As I remember from 2008, the route in New Zealand is really fast and twisty and so these qualities will prove a doubtless benefit."
Novikov has impressed in his first full season with the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team with a second-place finish at this year's Rally Portugal as well as a couple of fifth-place finishes to boot.
He says he's looking forward to competing in a true drivers' rally at Brother Rally New Zealand.
"First of all, the character of the route is very interesting and I like New Zealand's picturesque surroundings.
"In relation to Russia it is the other end of the world and it is always interesting for me to visit New Zealand.
"I am very glad that I have another opportunity to compete there this year."
Included in the total of fourteen drivers contesting the WRC category, the event also includes teams competing in the Super 2000 and Production World Rally Championship categories (SWRC and PWRC). There are a significant number of Kiwi teams entered, most of whom will be contesting the fourth round of the 2012 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC), powered by Brother. Competing in a subsidiary event held in conjunction with the Pukekohe Car Club is the Possum Bourne Memorial Rally, for local competitors.
A free rally family day at Auckland's Viaduct Events Centre on Sunday 17 June marks the first time that Kiwi rally fans can meet their favourite drivers. Competitors then complete their reconnaissance of the rally route for two-and-a-half days before the event officially gets underway at a ticketed welcome function on Thursday 21 June. A new MotorExpo and FanZone will operate inside rally headquarters at the Viaduct Events Centre – 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, Friday 22 June to Sunday 24 June. 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