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Tapper steps onto world stage


Magnificent win in Malaysia gives the young driver a fully-funded chance to make it big

Kiwi rally driver Mark Tapper (27) has won the inaugural Pirelli star driver competition for the Asia Pacific region.

The win in the 2008 Malaysian Rally gives him the opportunity to take part on the world stage of rallying in the 2009 FIA World Rally Championship.

Launched this year by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the Pirelli star driver scheme sees one driver from the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions and two from Europe win the opportunity to compete in six World Championship rallies in 2009 using a supplied Group N or Super 2000 car.

Tapper also finished third overall in the demanding Malaysian event behind defending Asia Pacific rally champion Australian Cody Crocker and Japanese Subaru driver Hiroshi Yanagisawa. Tapper and co-driver Jeff Judd were fastest in seven of the event's 14 stages in their Reece Jones Rallisport-prepared Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9.

Recently crowned New Zealand Rally champ Haydon Paddon also entered the Pirelli star driver competition in Malaysia, but the 21-year-old crashed on day one and suffered electrical issues on day two.

The other New Zealanders who travelled to Malaysia to contest the competition were Kirsty Nelson (18, Whangarei); Brad Ayling (26, Inglewood); and Patrick Malley (24, Auckland). None of these competitors completed the challenging event

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