Two defending New Zealand rally champions Dean Sumner and Geof Argyle are among the first to register their entries for the 2011 New Zealand Rally Championship.
In 2010 Sumner won his first Group N 4WD (production car category four-wheel-drive) title and took out the premier New Zealand Gold Star Rally Driver’s title. This year, the 31-year-old from Rotorua returns to challenge for the same championship title with Taupo’s Paul Fallon returning as his co-driver in the championship-winning ITM-backed Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX.
Palmerton North’s Argyle is also a former New Zealand rally champion, having won the Group A 4WD category and overall title in 1998 and 1999. After a short break from the sport, the 25-year rally-sport veteran returned in 2009 to contest and win the Open 4WD class. Last year, Argyle secured his second Open 4WD title last year with co-driver Phillip Deakin and the pair lines up for the five-round 2011 series in the Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VIII that Argyle prepares himself at Argyle Rallysport.
Sumner is excited to be getting ready for the new rally season. “It’s absolutely fantastic that we are back competing in the 2011 New Zealand Rally Championship. We appreciate receiving the continued support of our sponsors – ITM, Senco, Makita, Wattyl, Marley, Gib and Geartech – for another year and we’re also delighted to welcome Hankook Tyres and Gull Fuel to our sponsor family. The ITM Evo is ready to go testing very soon, so we’re looking forward to another successful year and working with the team from Rally New Zealand.”
With the recent announcement that the New Zealand Rally Championship is being managed and promoted by Rally New Zealand, competitors’ entries have been quick to arrive at the organisation’s Auckland offices.
Peter (“PJ”) Johnston, Rally New Zealand chairman, says he and NZRC manager Willard Martin were delighted to receive entries from Glenn Inkster, from Howick in Auckland, Rotorua’s Sloan Cox and Euan Fuge of Feilding.
“Well-known to many Kiwi rally fans, Glenn Inkster had his first run in the Group N 4WD class last year so we’re all keen to see how he does in this year’s competition,” says Johnston. “Sloan Cox won his first junior driver’s championship last season with co-driving sister Taryn alongside. We’re looking forward to seeing this teenage duo continue to improve again this season.”
Historic and classic classes form an increasingly popular aspect to rallying in New Zealand and around the world, with the NZRC featuring a classic category since 2006.
“Now called the NZRC Historic Challenge Trophy, former Classic Challenge champion Euan Fuge has the honour of being the first entrant in this fantastic two-wheel-drive class for vehicles built before 1 January, 1987,” notes Johnston.
The NZRC season fires up with the DriveSouth Rally of Otago from 8-10 April. Johnston says as the new championship promoters, the team at Rally New Zealand is heartened by a huge amount of competitor interest.
“It has been difficult for competitors, not knowing what was going to happen for a period of time, but everyone can be confident we’ll be doing all we can to grow the championship as a whole from this season on,” says Johnston.
This year’s NZRC also includes Rally New Zealand based at Hampton Downs in May, then Rally Wairarapa later that month, before the International Rally of Whangarei in July and the final event for 2011, Rally Hawke’s Bay in August. Each of the five rallies offer two days of gravel-surface competition for four classes: Group N 4WD, Group N 2WD/Kiwi2, open class 4WD and historic cars. There are also trophies for both the winning driver and co-driver in each category, as well as the rookie driver, the junior driver (under 25-years-old) and manufacturer titles to contend.
Competitors are reminded that NZRC entries close on Friday 11 March.
2011 New Zealand Rally Championship Calendar
Round 1 – DriveSouth Rally of Otago – 8 to 10 April
Round 2 – Rally New Zealand ‘High Octane at Hampton’ – 7 to 8 May
Round 3 – Rally Wairarapa – 28 to 29 May
Round 4 – International Rally of Whangarei – 16 to 17 July
Round 5 – Rally Hawke’s Bay – 20 to 21 August