Stars in cars for International Rally of Whangarei
28 Apr 2017 - Event Release

The International Rally of Whangarei, part of the Whangarei Festival of motorsport, will include defending APRC champion and last year’s rally winner Gaurav Gill from India.

New for 2017 are the two-car Swedish based Mitsubishi team that include former World Rally Championship (WRC) driver Jari Ketomaa. The 38-year-old Finnish ace has contested the New Zealand roads previously and comes backed with recent competition experience. Ketomaa and co-driver Ville Mannisemaki will be joined by Sweden’s Robert Blomberg and co-driver Lars Andersson in matching four-wheel-drive turbo-charged Mitsubishi Mirage R5 cars.

Gill will not only have a new co-driver for 2017 Belgium's Stephane Prevot, he will also have a new team-mates with the Norwegian crew of Ole Vieby and co-driver Stig Skjarmoen competing in equal R5 specification ŠKODA Fabia cars, backed by Indian tyre manufacturer MRF.

Contesting six rounds for the 2017 title, the Whangarei season opener will be the battle-ground for top-level manufacturer backed teams. Drivers the calibre of Ketomaa and Gill will ensure every
second matters as they strive for early dominance and brand superiority. “The FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship is of major strategic significance to ŠKODA as the rallies are run in extremely important growth markets like India and China. On top of that, the demanding gravel tracks are ideal for challenging talented young drivers,” stresses
SKODA motorsport boss Michal Hrabánek.

The message is echoed by Mitsubishi MPart boss Tomas Weng: "The Asia Pacific Rally Championship provides a great showcase for our Mitsubishi, as it is given parity against cars of the same specification that it wouldn't otherwise have in the WRC, ERC and some domestic rally championships. Therefore, it is of great interest to us to be able to compete on a level playing field against other cars of similar specification and therefore challenge for overall positions and the championship title.”

A further 54 cars will follow in the trail of the international category cars – including the similar specification AP4+ cars growing in significant popularity. Last year’s national field was headlined by WRC rally winner Kiwi Hayden Paddon and John Kennard. For 2017, it will be the same Hyundai i20 at the hands of understudy David Holder and co-driver Jason Farmer. The defending Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Champion, Holder’s temporary hold of the car has allowed him to take an early lead in the six round local series having recently won the opening Rally Otago event. Several Mazdas, a Toyota, Suzuki Swift and the Holden Barina of four-time Bathurst winning driver Greg Murphy are some of the latest cars to join the leading-edge of competition. They will be alongside familiar Mitsubishi and Subaru models – as well as many two-wheel-drive specification cars, all chasing their own accolades.

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