Rally New Zealand organizers have selected Richard Mason and Emma Gilmour as their two wild-card entries for the Auckland-based Production Car World Rally Championship round.
Both Kiwi drivers have built new Group N Subaru Imprezas for this season and both will be chasing a coveted home win in the P-WRC series when Rally New Zealand starts on May 6. They will face a strong field at home, with 11 drivers coming from around the world to contest the P-WRC class, including former champion Toshi Arai (Subaru) and rising Norwegian star Anders Grondal (Subaru). The biggest battle for Mason and Gilmour could, however, come from a lot closer to home as Hayden Paddon, twice New Zealand national champion, will contest the event in his Mitsubishi.
"We're delighted to have Emma Gilmour and Richard Mason represent New Zealand in the hotly contested Production World Rally Championship category," said Chris Carr, chairman of Rally New Zealand. "Both drivers are highly talented and professional, and we're sure they will make the most of the opportunity to showcase their abilities by being seeded among and running directly against the current PWRC competitors."
This will be Mason's second wild-card NZ entry and, after taking three P-WRC podiums in previous seasons, he's hoping to break his duck this time around.
"We've been awarded the wild-card entry once before and have entered PWRC directly twice before," said Mason, whose wife Sara is his co-driver. "It's always a huge opportunity for Sara and I to run directly against the PWRC competitors. Even though, as a New Zealand Rally Championship competitor in Rally New Zealand, we use the same sort of Group N car as the PWRC competitors, you don't get the same recognition in the wider rallying world as you would being one of the PWRC entrants."
As a PWRC guest entrant, Mason would normally carry No. 49 but in honor of Rally New Zealand's 40th anniversary in 2010, the former New Zealand rally champion will carry No. 40 on his Subaru rally car. Gilmour finished second in last year's FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship and is co-driven by Arai's former navigator Glenn MacNeall.
"It's the second time I've had this opportunity and it's fantastic to have another chance to represent New Zealand in the PWRC class," said Gilmour. "To be on an even playing field with global competitors, all driving Group N production cars, that's the opportunity I want to make the most of. It all helps my profile globally."