Coromandel's Alex Kelsey is the first in a string of drivers committing to the 2013 New Zealand Rally Championship by announcing his construction of a new age Peugeot 207 that will compete in the six round series.
Building the car himself, Kelsey has embraced the competitive formula being introduced for 2013 – brought about by promoters Rally of New Zealand reacting to changes in the global car manufacturing market. The changes allow potential constructors greater freedoms over vehicle manufacture and exploit the very traits New Zealander's are renown internationally at excelling in. The new age cars handling is equally expected to bring a flamboyant driving style to the fore – a point fans from yesteryear still reminisce about today.
"Look what we can do in a shed here at home – a ground up build of a brand new performance car for less than that of a Group N (production) model – and it's built for reliability," says 20-year-old Kelsey, who's Peugeot 207 silhouette panelled chassis will be powered by a race ready 3litre V6 Peugeot engine and six-speed sequential Sadev gearbox. Kelsey says it is a far cheaper way of getting a competitive result without the capital cost of buying a brand manufacturer chassis and modifying it.
Having led the 2012 NZRC after the first round, Kelsey's committed driving style will be further unleashed with the new car. The cars designed weight distribution and handling geometry in conjunction with the V6 engine will make it an exciting mix. Kelsey believes the distinctive Peugeot engine note will be reminiscent of the Group B era of the 1980's.
"I know fans will revel in the sound it will make – I can't wait myself."
Kelsey says the project also allows him to use off the shelf suspension components that are more durable than those required under production regulations: "Brakes, steering and all the other things that often wear out and add to the running bill aren't an issue – I know the car will be far cheaper to run than anything I've used before. Aside from fuel and tyres it should just be the occasional body panel – most of which will be fibreglass anyway."
Working closely with MotorSport New Zealand's technical department, Kelsey's hand built chassis has to meet rigorous safety criteria – that includes it having to comply with and carry a current Warrant Of Fitness (WOF) sticker to compete in the championship. "The biggest task is getting it road registered – as it's a ‘from scratch' built car – that is hardest task of all."
Kelsey's plan is to have it ready for the first event of the 2013 six round championship – which includes the International Rally of Whangarei, a round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC). Eligibility changes to the international category means, provided Kelsey meets safety criteria and performance restrictions as prescribed by the FIA, he can apply to the FIA for his car to be eligible to compete in the international event and the APRC series.
"That's the brilliant bit – that this home built car could compete directly against and with the internationals when they come here in May."
The 2013 season starts in Dunedin with the two-day Rally of Otago in early April, followed by the International Rally of Whangarei 18-19 May, the Daybreaker Rally (Manawatu) on 29 June, Rally Canterbury on 10 August, the 10th Anniversary Possum Bourne Memorial Rally on 7 September and the final round, Rally Wairarapa, on 5 October.
Currently three new specification cars are under construction with two other teams confirming they have build projects underway.
News and information about the championship – including driver profiles and team news – can be found on the website www.nzrallychampionship.co.nz, or follow New Zealand Rally Championship on Facebook