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Otago Rally entry list to reach pre-COVID numbers

Entries continue to stream in for the 2023 Winmax Brake Pads Otago Rally, with Hayden Paddon heading the field in his Hyundai.

Paddon will be chasing his 10th victory at the event, and his fifth in a row.

For this year, however, Paddon could be driving his Hyundai i20 N Rally2, rather than the AP4 version that he has used so successfully in recent years. A final decision is yet to be made by the team.

The top of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship field will be full of talent, with Raana Horan and Todd Bowden in new Rally2 cars, while local favourite Emma Gilmour will debut her Citroen C3 Rally2 that was campaigned by Armin Kremer at Rally New Zealand last year.

The rally is a Pacific Cup round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship and a round of the inaugural TER World Series, and has attracted many international competitors for the first time since 2019, with drivers from Finland, Australia, New Caledonia, Japan, Philippines and Vanuatu all on the entry list.

Former WRC star Mikko Hirvonen is the big drawcard in the ENEOS International Classic Rally of Otago, but also of great interest is a team of three Holden Commodore V8s from Australia.

Craig Jarvie, Anthony Morrow and Braeden Kendrick are well known for their rock throwing skills in Australia, and these rear-wheel drive monsters are sure to be crowd favourites on the Otago roads.

Pushing Hirvonen hard for outright honours in the classics is likely to be former winner, Deane Buist, who’s back in a Ford Escort RS1800 for the first time since 2017.

Although Buist will be running on pace notes, although he won’t be doing the pre-event reconnaissance.

“We’ve received 58 confirmed entries so far with two weeks to go, after we received 130 intentions to enter” event manager Norm Oakley said.

“All in all, I think we’ll end up similar to our pre-COVID 2019 numbers with around 130 starters.

After a ceremonial start in Dunedin’s Octagon on Friday, March 31, the rally runs over two days on Saturday and Sunday, April 1 and 2 and covers more than 250 competitive kilometres.

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