A podium result is Christchurch based rally driver Chris West's aim as he lines up for the penultimate round of the Vantage Aluminium Joinery 2009 NZ Rally Championship this weekend - the Trust House Racetech Rally Of Wairarapa
After contesting the first three rounds of the championship in a dated Lancer the former Champion will have a later model Castrol/Exide Lancer at his disposal this weekend.
The car, a Neil Allport Motorsports prepared Mitsubishi EVO 9, was delayed on it's return from Sardinia to New Zealand but preparation is now well underway and it is expected to be completed in time for West and co-driver Chris Cobham of Palmerston North to test this Wednesday prior to the weekend's action packed rally.
"I'm really looking forward to the weekend," say's Westy. "The use of an EVO 9 gives the Andrew Simms Rally Team it's best chance yet of finishing on the podium this season and provides the opportunity to give our sponsors more exposure."
West has achieved some good results in the opening rounds of the championship despite the handicap of a less competitive car than his rivals. He currently lies fifth overall in the point standings. However, armed with a more competitive package this weekend West and his team's focus has changed.
"Instead of trying to achieve the best we can with what we had, our goal is very clear. By consistently placing in the top three stage times throughout each leg we will achieve our goal of a podium finish," say's Chris. Westy doesn't expect it to come easily.
"There's a very competitive fight for the overall championship between Hayden (Paddon), Richard (Mason) and Emma (Gilmour) going on in the mix, so expect the pace to be full-on from the first stage. Richard is the benchmark for sure. His dominance at his home rally speaks for itself."
"Wairarapa is a challenging event," say's West. "The roads are some of the most technical in the championship - it's important to carry speed whilst being as neat and tidy as possible. They are reasonably twisty and narrow but having said that it is a fast paced rally. That's the character of them, a real driver's rally. It is the same format as in the past with only the weather to take into consideration. Taking place later this year it's likely to be wet." Last year's Rally Wairarapa was the opening round of the championship and took place in April.
"We are the best prepared we've been this season and I intend on making the most if it."
With the new, soft, AO35 Yokohama compound available West's past issues of being unable to achieve any tyre temperature are gone. "I want to get back to where we should be - challenging the frontrunners. At the end of the day our objective has been to get back into a more competitive car when possible and while it has been frustrating to have to make do in the meantime we have had some reasonable results. We have a very different perspective to those who are in championship contention - it should be very interesting."