Competitors registered for the Rally New Zealand Rising Stars programme get their next chance to score points during Trust House Racetech Rally Wairarapa this weekend, 18-19 July
The driver development award programmes see competitors, aged 26 or younger, select four rallies in which to collect points towards either the Rising Stars International Award or the Development Award, explains Rally New Zealand chairman Chris Carr.
Currently Hayden Paddon leads the International Award standings, having completed three of his four nominated events, but isn’t collecting Rising Stars points in Wairarapa. This gives Nelson’s Kieran Hall and Rotorua’s Sloan Cox an opportunity to score the maximum-available ten Rising Stars points from the two-day event. The other two International Award contenders are both from Christchurch; Matt Jansen and Josh Marston have collected Rising Stars points in only one event to date so with three events, including Wairarapa, still to complete, the totals are going to change significantly in the next two months.
“At this point in the season, although Hayden Paddon has 30 points versus Kieran Hall the next best on 18 points, it’s difficult to tell who’s going to top the leader-board after the last event, Rally Nelson, in September,” says Carr.
“This additional level of competition can only be a good thing for our young drivers as they strive to develop the skills needed to create a lasting professional career as a rally driver.”
In the Development Award stakes, Whangarei’s Ben Jagger has the lead but, like Paddon, has elected not to collect Rising Stars points in Wairarapa. However Jagger’s arch-rival Ford Fiesta driver Aucklander Patrick Malley has nominated Wairarapa; if he scores the maximum-available ten points, he will equal Jagger with 29 points. This pair then has this season’s second compulsory event, the Possum Bourne Memorial Rally in August, as their last Rising Stars points’ scoring opportunity. The other three Development Award competitors, Ben Hunt (pictured), Dominick Unterberger and Daniel Harris – uniquely all three young drivers are from Nelson – are all also contesting their home event, Rally Nelson.
“After Rally Nelson, the top two drivers, plus a wildcard entry, in each award attend a one day shoot-out to ultimately decide who wins the inaugural Rising Stars Development Award and Rising Stars International Award,” says Carr. The Rising Stars shoot-out is likely to take place in November.
“It’s exciting to see the level of professionalism our Rising Stars competitors have attained this season,” comments Carr. “You can see they have all worked hard to improve the presentation of their cars and teams, and to develop their media skills alongside their driving abilities. This is all part of the Rising Stars programme aims and we’re delighted to see how these ten drivers have embraced the opportunities afforded by Rising Stars.”
The Rising Stars Development Award is for competitors currently running in the N3 or production car front-wheel-drive championship, and offers the 2009 winner support to run a four-wheel-drive car in Rally New Zealand and the New Zealand Rally Championship in 2010. The Rising Stars International Award provides the 2009 winner with significant funding and support to contest a major international rally in 2010. Each award prize package is worth at least $50,000 and compliments the Rising Stars Scholarship for a rookie driver.
Carr advises that drivers interested in competing for the 2010 Rising Stars Scholarship can now register their intentions with Rally New Zealand.
“Simply email the Rally office, firstname.lastname@example.org, to ensure you receive all the relevant information as it is released. Entries will open soon with the weekend shoot-out likely to take place at the same time as the shoot-out for this year’s Development and International Awards,” says Carr. "As the entrants in the inaugural scholarship shootout learnt, the weekend requires a fair amount of preparation and will benefit all participants not just the winner"
The inaugural Scholarship was won by Nelson’s Ben Hunt late last year and he is now contesting the Development Award.
Mid-way through his season as the Scholarship holder, Hunt says it’s been an amazing year so far.
“So many people have helped me,” says the 21-year-old, who was a very successful age group tennis representative until taking up rallying just last year. “I have to acknowledge Rally New Zealand and their sponsors for the wonderful opportunity and their ongoing support and encouragement. And thanks also to Kayne Barry, Neil Allport and my co-driver Jeff Cress for sharing their knowledge and expertise with me. It’s a fantastic, but intense learning opportunity!”