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Sat, 20 Jan 2018 - Hyundai Motorsport WRC Preview: Rallye Monte-Carlo
Hyundai Motorsport aims for a fast start to the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with its sights set on a maiden Monte-Carlo victory
Three Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC cars will join the intense fight for glory between WRC’s manufacturers at the season-opener
Competing under the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team banner, the squad aims to build on its second place in the 2017 championship for its fifth year of WRC competition.

Alzenau, Germany

January 19, 2018 – The 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) gets underway next weekend with the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo, the first of 13 events on this year’s WRC calendar.

Hyundai Motorsport has outlined clear ambitions to compete for both drivers’ and manufacturers’ championship titles this year, having mounted a strong challenge throughout 2017. Yet, with rivals M-Sport, Toyota and Citroën all gunning for glory, another fierce battle among the manufacturers is on the cards.

The team’s 2018 challenger - an upgraded specification of its multiple rally-winning Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC - made its public debut alongside all WRC machinery at the official season launch in Birmingham, UK last week.

Triple threat
Competing under the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team banner for 2018, a trio of crews will represent Hyundai Motorsport at Rallye Monte-Carlo. Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger will tackle the 17-stage rally in the #4 car, Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul will aim for victory in the #5, while Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio will run the #6.

Neuville memorably led at Monte-Carlo twelve months ago, putting in an eye-catching performance until a premature retirement on the penultimate afternoon. The Belgian went on to dominate the Power Stage to take the maximum five points as consolation.

A tested development
The 2018-specification Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC has undertaken a thorough development programme over the winter. Three days of testing were held north of Nice, France in mid-December, followed by a three days closer to Gap in the New Year.

The team then travelled to Spain for a solitary day of evaluation in a range of conditions. All three crews competing in Monte Carlo had the chance to get acquainted with the car on dry and wet tarmac, as well as on snow and ice. It proved a useful opportunity to replicate the various scenarios that might occur on the Monte stages.

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “We are as well prepared for this new season as we can be with renewed ambitions for the championship. The performance of our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in the final rounds of last season, especially winning in Australia, gave us a good springboard for winter development. We have taken the car and crews to France and Spain for seven days of testing in the past month, in an effort to replicate conditions that we expect in Monte. The beauty of this opening event is its unpredictability, so we have to be prepared for anything. Autosport International brought together all the manufacturer teams for a unique event, one that perfectly showcases the WRC’s community spirit. We know our rivals will be formidable and relentless, so we have to be on top of our game at all times. Bring on round one – let’s hope it’s another classic Monte.”

Crew Notes: Mikkelsen/Jæger (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
The Norwegian crew begins their first complete WRC season for Hyundai Motorsport at Monte-Carlo. They are aiming to build on an impressive debut in final three rounds of 2017, which saw them lead in Spain and Australia and finish fourth in Wales Rally GB.

Mikkelsen said: “It’s an amazing feeling to be starting a complete WRC season with Hyundai Motorsport. Last year was a bit frustrating, so I am looking forward to a consistent year with lots of rallying and aiming to be in the championship fight. Monte, of course, is an incredibly difficult challenge to start a new year with all kinds of conditions, including night driving where black ice can catch anyone out. Alongside Anders, I can’t wait to get our 2018 campaign underway.”

Crew Comments: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Belgians Neuville and Gilsoul led last year’s Monte-Carlo by 51 seconds before an accident in SS13 put them out of contention. They are hoping to use the experiences from recent seasons to go one better in the championship than they managed in 2016 and 2017 – starting with a strong result next weekend.

Neuville said: “Excitement for this new WRC season is at fever pitch. The launch event in Birmingham put us all in a very positive frame of mind, and ready to attack the year ahead. Monte-Carlo is a very special event, one at which even the slightest error can be rally-ending. We saw last year, having led the event comfortably right until the penultimate day, that a small mistake put us out in a very frustrating manner. That’s what Monte is all about; it’s a tough challenge to start the year. We will aim to put all the lessons learned from our participation in the recent editions of this event to good use.”

Crew Comments: Sordo/Del Barrio (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Monte-Carlo will represent the first of seven planned WRC events for the team’s Spanish crew in 2018. Sordo was the highest placed Hyundai Motorsport driver in last year’s Monte rally, finishing in fourth place. A podium challenge is therefore a realistic target.

Sordo said: “I am pleased to be starting my fifth season with Hyundai Motorsport at one of the most demanding events on the calendar – Monte-Carlo. We have developed a strong working relationship and although my schedule for this season is just seven events, I will aim to get as much out of them as I possibly can. I have a new co-driver for this season, Carlos, so there will be some areas we need to refresh, but we are optimistic we can deliver a positive result in this debut rally of the new year. We have to expect the unexpected at Monte-Carlo, and it will definitely be a tough fight against our rivals.”

Bite-size Monte-Carlo

From Casino Square to Col de Turini, Rallye Monte-Carlo is packed full of spectacular, yet unforgiving stages, that put cars and crews to the ultimate test
Run over a total distance of 388.59km, it is one of the longest events on the calendar and is held over four days and 17 stages of competitive action.
The night tests on Thursday take place close to midnight and require cars to be fitted with additional light pods – giving an aggressive look to the machinery.
Friday covers the most distance on any individual day – almost 145km of special stages with some new challenges for 2018. Almost 50% of the route will differ to last year’s event.
Tyre strategy often plays a decisive role with conditions known to vary dramatically from one stage to the next – and even within a stage.
As always, the Service Park in Gap will be a hive of activity at the end of each day as teams work tirelessly to keep the cars in peak performance: the ideal way to get a new WRC season off to a flying start.
- Ends -
Fri, 19 Jan 2018 - Otago Rally secures NZRC sponsor for 2018 event

Dunedin Isuzu have joined forces with the Otago Rally as the naming rights sponsor for the national championship field of the 2018 event.

To be known as ‘Dunedin Isuzu Otago NZRC Rally’, the event is once again the opening round of the national championship, and will be held on April 14 and 15.

There are four rallies making up the family of fields for the Drivesouth Rallyfest: the NZRC, Classic, Classic 4WD Challenge, and Allcomers.

Dunedin Isuzu/Mike’s Cars’ Mike Wellington, an active supporter and competitor of motorsport in New Zealand for over 22 years, and in particular events around the Otago area including the Otago Rally, is thrilled to support the 2018 event.

“I’ve competed in the Otago Rally in Mitsubishi Evos over the years and still remember my first Otago Rally running as the zero car back in 2001, and watched it grow into an iconic event,” Wellington said.

“I am delighted with this opportunity to support the rally more actively than ever. To be a sponsor of the first round of the NZ Rally Championship is particularly exciting.

“The NZ Rally Championship, especially with the new AP4 class, is one of the best in the world, with many manufacturers, fantastic drivers, and the best roads in the world. I couldn’t turn this opportunity down!”

The partnership works well for both Dunedin Isuzu’s D-MAX Ute range and the Otago Rally.

“We are particularly pleased to welcome Mike Wellington and Dunedin Isuzu into our family of sponsors,” event spokesman, Roger Oakley, said.

“We are proud to be associated with a trusted brand and a business owner who has the best interests of the sport at heart.

“Our goal has always been to develop the Otago Rally into an event that showcases rallying and our region to the world. Dunedin Isuzu share this desire.”

The 2018 Dunedin Isuzu Otago NZRC Rally has already received over 70 expressions of interest to compete, with up to 10 manufacturers set to take part in the latest model rally cars from Australia and New Zealand.

Last year’s Otago Rally attracted well over 100 entries, with this year’s event looking set to equal or better that number.

The Otago Rally is grateful for Major Events funding from Dunedin City Council, and is supported by the Otago Community Trust and the Lion Foundation.

For more info on the Otago Rally, visit

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 - Fresh approach for WRC season by Paddon

New Zealander Hayden Paddon is taking a fresh approach to the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship season as he and co-driver Brit Seb Marshall prepare to return to competition in the updated Hyundai i20 Coupe world rally car.

Hyundai Motorsport has announced that Paddon and Marshall will share the #6 Hyundai with team-mate Dani Sordo and the Spaniard’s new co-driver Carlos del Barrio, with Paddon contesting seven of the 13 rallies. Sordo will also contest seven rallies with the team running four cars in Portugal.

The Kiwi/Brit pairing get their 2018 season underway at the WRC’s only full-winter rally in Sweden in February. They then contest Portugal (May), Italy (June), Finland (July), Turkey (September), Great Britain (October) and Australia (November).

Following a refreshing break at home in New Zealand for the Christmas holidays, Paddon returned to Europe to join the team at the UK’s famed Autosport motorsport show.

He says: “I am treating the 2018 season almost like a fresh start after our difficulties from last year. I want to put that behind me and use the positives from our podium results to spur us on to achieve what I know we are capable of.

“We will make the most of all seven events this year; being gravel rallies, these are all events that are strong for us and we have good experience of – other than Turkey, which will be new for everyone.

“We have nothing to lose, so we will be going all out on these events to fight for podiums and get that edge back. Also by doing more events in second half of the year, it means we will also have an advantageous road position for most events.”

Paddon aims to keep his competitive edge by running an expanded New Zealand programme in his Hyundai New Zealand i20 AP4+ car.

Paddon would obviously prefer to be competing at all 13 WRC rallies this year. “I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t prefer to contest the full season, but I have to accept things like this and make the most of each opportunity we get throughout the year. Of course, we will do everything in our power to help the team towards their goal of winning the manufacturers’ title.

“My ultimate goal and target remains the same, but it will have to go on hold for this year. This year is about getting it all back on track and work towards the future.”

Paddon and Hayden Paddon RallySport Global (HPRG) Ltd appreciate the support of their exclusive partners, Hyundai New Zealand, Pak’nSave, Winmax Brake Pads and Z Energy

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 - Revolution in WRC’s live coverage for 2018
  • Follow the FIA World Rally Championship like never before 
  • Every single special stage broadcast as it happens 
  • Expert analysis and breaking news live from the rally service park 
  • WRC Promoter offers more than 300 hours live coverage in 2018 
  • WRC All Live upgrade available to WRC+ subscribers

Birmingham, England, 11 January 2018 – WRC fans can look forward to watching unprecedented live coverage of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship under ground-breaking plans to transform the way the series is broadcast.

For the first time in the championship’s history, every special stage from each round will be shown as it happens. Additional live coverage will include the opening and podium ceremonies, press conferences and driver autograph sessions.

WRC Promoter, the championship’s commercial rights holder, will offer more than 25 hours of coverage from each rally as a continuous live stream, including expert analysis from the WRC’s TV studio and breaking news, interviews and reactions from across the service park.

Announcing the new WRC All Live service at the season launch at Autosport International Show in Birmingham on Thursday, WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla called the plans ‘pioneering’.

“WRC fans now have the choice and flexibility to join the live action at any time during a rally weekend,” he said. “Fans can choose to watch the stages they like best and enjoy unprecedented live access to the service areas, whenever they want and from wherever they are.”

Numerous stageside and onboard cameras, helicopters, drones and a production team of almost 100 people will provide thrilling coverage of the WRC’s stars battling for crucial tenths of a second in conditions as extreme as the frozen forests of Sweden and the raw heat of Sardinia.

WRC All Live will be available in English on the championship’s subscription channel. “With WRC+, All Live can be watched anywhere, anytime and on any device – computer, laptop, smart TV, smartphone or tablet,” added Ciesla.

“Fans won’t have to miss a thing as all stages can be watched live or on demand and an interactive programme guide will provide information to steers fans easily through each day.”

WRC All Live will begin with a live stream from the opening two stages at Rallye Monte-Carlo on Thursday 25 January. “WRC All Live is the logical development of WRC+. A continuous live stream is the appropriate format for an endurance sport that runs for two-and-a-half days,” said Ciesla.

“It will also become an important new tool for journalists, teams, rally organisers and safety delegates working in the WRC.”

Popular existing features such as live maps, exclusive onboard videos, and on-demand daily highlights shows are included in the WRC All Live offer, which costs 8.99 euros per month or 89.99 euros for 12 months at

Current WRC+ subscribers can update to WRC All Live. The WRC+ basic package, containing live coverage of a Saturday afternoon test and Sunday lunchtime’s rally-closing Power Stage alongside the above features, remains available as a starter bundle.

All fans subscribing or upgrading to WRC All Live before February’s Rally Sweden have the opportunity to win a spectacular co-drive in M-Sport World Rally Team’s championship winning Ford Fiesta WRC at Vodafone Rally de Portugal in May.

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 - Hyundai Motorsport joins WRC family for 2018 launch
  • Hyundai Motorsport has taken part in a high-profile launch of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship at the Autosport International show in the UK today
  • The team’s four crews, along with its recently announced HMDP line-up, have joined the rest of the WRC community to see in the new season in style
  • The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC was on display alongside its manufacturer rivals, on a day when WRC announced an exciting programme of live stages for 2018. 

Alzenau, Germany
January 11, 2018 - Hyundai Motorsport has heralded the start of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) at a joint launch event with the WRC community at the popular Autosport International show in Birmingham, UK today.
All four of the team’s crews, Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul, Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger, Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio and Hayden Paddon/Seb Marshall, were present at the event along with the Hyundai Motorsport Driver development Program (HMDP) duo of Jari Huttunen/Antti Linnaketo.
The team joined its fellow WRC competitors on-stage at the popular show, where all 2018 contenders were on display together.  It was the first time that the updated Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC was seen in public with the drivers showing off their new overalls for the season ahead.
All four crews will contribute to Hyundai Motorsport’s championship goals for 2018. Mikkelsen and Neuville will contest all 13 rounds of the season in the respective #4 and #5 cars, while Sordo and Paddon will share the #6 car in selected events.
The current plan is for Sordo to compete in Monte-Carlo, Mexico, Corsica, Argentina, Germany and Spain, with Paddon joining at Sweden, Sardinia, Finland, Turkey, GB and Australia. The team intends to run a four-car entry for Rally de Portugal to offer both crews an equal number of rallies in 2018.
The WRC promoter used the opportunity of today’s launch to announce, WRC All Live, a revolutionary initiative to broadcast all stages live on WRC+ for the coming season. Hyundai Motorsport and its driver crews have welcomed the ambitious plans, which showcase the strong intentions of the WRC ahead of the forthcoming season, which gets underway at Rallye Monte-Carlo later this month.
Neuville said: “The launch of WRC All Live is a great initiative from the promoters. It’s really difficult to promote rallying, and to get more people involved. By its very nature, as a long event run over several days, there is a lot to consider when broadcasting WRC. This will make it far easier for people to follow the rally over each and every stage, and it promises to make our sport even more popular.”
Mikkelsen commented: “I have enjoyed being part of the Autosport International show today, and to have a the chance to be part of our season launch at such a great event for our sport. The news that all stages will be broadcast live in 2018 is fantastic. I’m proud that we are able to show off the sport we love in such an exciting new way.”
Sordo added: “I am looking forward to getting the 2018 season started at the first of my seven events this year, Monte-Carlo. Today has been a nice way to share our passion for WRC with a wide audience. It is an incredible job from the WRC promoter to broadcast all stages. It’s exactly what we need, and I would like to say congratulations to everyone involved. WRC is not the easiest to broadcast, so this has required a big effort to make reality.”
Paddon said: “WRC All Live is a pretty significant development for WRC moving forwards. Allowing fans around the world to follow the sport even more closely than ever before is a very good thing. From my point of view, with all the fans watching in NZ, it is going to be awesome that they can now watch all the stages and follow us like never before.”
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “All of us at Hyundai Motorsport have been honoured to play a small part in today’s WRC launch at Autosport International. To have the chance to unveil our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in such a unique way has been incredible, and we are excited by the plans announced by WRC to show every stage live this season. We are always looking to reach new audiences, and show our sport in the most authentic way possible. WRC All Live is the ideal way to do that, and we are sure fans will be closer to the action than ever before.  It’s really been the best way to kick-start 2018.” 

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 - Holder’s JWRC selection confirmed

David Holder’s entry in the FIA Junior World Rally Championship has been confirmed by championship co-ordinators M-Sport Poland.

The 28-year-old, originally from Invercargill and now living in Tauranga, recently outlined his plans to take his rallying career international, but needed to await official confirmation that he’d been selected to content the five-round JWRC.

With this confirmation, Holder and his regular co-driver Jason Farmer, from Hamilton, will push on with finding the budget to compete in the one-make championship where all competitors use M-Sport prepared Ford Fiesta R2 EcoBoost rally cars.

“It’s really exciting to get confirmation on our selection into the JWRC,” says Holder, who travelled to the team’s Polish headquarters earlier this month for a ‘meet and greet’ with other prospective JWRC competitors and hop behind the wheel of the R2 Fiesta for the first time.

“There’s been a lot of work and planning already happening in the background so it’s nice to know we’ve been selected. There are still a lot of hurdles to overcome, none more so than the 185,000 Euro budget to compete. I know without a doubt that I will make sure we are on the start line in Sweden, no matter what it takes!

“It’s been an incredible journey in my career until this point and I can’t thank everyone who’s been involved enough. Although this next step is much more challenging than ever, it’s also very, very exciting. I can’t wait to start working alongside M-Sport; the professionalism and knowledge base within the team is unbeatable. It will be a fantastic learning experience.”

The pair will be the first New Zealanders to compete in the entry level World Rally Championship which takes in some of the WRC’s key European events – Sweden in February, Corsica (France) in April, Portugal in May, Finland in July and the unknown roads of Turkey in September. More information about Holder’s world rallying journey can be found on his Facebook page ENDS/

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 - New Zealand retains strong representation at the FIA

President of MotorSport New Zealand (MSNZ) Wayne Christie, of Christchurch, has been elected president of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Rally Commission, following the 2017 annual general assembly of the world governing body of motorsport last week.

Christie follows two highly-regarded New Zealanders, Morrie Chandler, ONZM and the late Ron Frost, MBE, in maintaining a Kiwi presence at the highest levels of world motorsport. Chandler and Frost, both from Auckland, were also former presidents of MSNZ – Chandler from 1977 to 1998 and Frost from 1958 to 1977.

Chandler has held several roles with the FIA, most recently as one of seven vice presidents on the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) for the last eleven years. Earlier he was one of 25 members of the WMSC – the sport’s top governing body. Chandler was also previously a member of the FIA's Rallies Commission, then president of the World Rally Championship organisers before being elected president of the World Rally Championship Commission in 2006.

Chandler stepped down from the FIA Vice Presidential role this month, in accordance with the FIA statutes applying an age limit of 75 years at time of election to all FIA bodies. In recognition of his valued contributions over many years, Chandler was honoured with the title of Vice President d’Honneur de FIA during the 2017 general assembly meeting which concluded the FIA’s annual meetings in Paris.

“For a small country, New Zealand punches well above its weight in world motorsport as competitors and in the sport’s administration and regulation,” says Christie who was voted in as MSNZ president in 2016.

“Chandler and Frost, before me, forged significant pathways which assisted us to continue New Zealand’s representation at the highest levels of the FIA.

“Apart from the obvious successes of many Kiwi competitors internationally this year, New Zealand also ranks inside the top ten countries for numbers of motorsport competitors and events held, and this is purely on numbers, not per capita,” Christie says, quoting the FIA 2017 Sport Clubs Data Survey.

Stepping into his new global role as the president of the FIA Rally Commission alongside his MSNZ role and his full-time position with a Christchurch legal firm, Christie says he is better known as a circuit racing competitor.

“I have had some previous rallying co-driving experience, and have stewarded rallies up to New Zealand Championship level. I also bring eight years of experience heading up MSNZ advisory commissions, and it is this experience I believe I can bring to the FIA Rally Commission. There is already so much rally experience within the commission, my role is to help manage and coordinate the knowledge for the betterment of the sport. I’m also fortunate to have many, very experienced ‘rally brains’ in New Zealand who I can draw upon.”

Christie believes he has the skills to make a difference at FIA level. “The MSNZ board agreed that it was desirable for New Zealand to continue its long-standing presence at that level of the FIA. There are several reasons behind this: a lot of work has gone before us that should not be let go lightly; motorsport in New Zealand has benefitted from that level of involvement and can continue to do so; and New Zealand is well respected within the FIA family and can continue to contribute in a positive manner.”

The FIA Rally Commission is responsible for overseeing the welfare of rallying below World Rally Championship level, with a particular focus on the global regional rally championships, such as the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship.

Christie acknowledges there are stiff challenges facing several of the regional rally championships.

“I’m looking forward to working with the 25 commission members to address the issues and concerns to make rallying in the regions around the world stronger, with key issues such as costs among the biggest hurdles.”

Christie’s position heading the FIA Rally Commission also means that he has a seat on the WRC Commission as well as the Safety Commission.

Two other New Zealanders are also represented at the highest levels of the FIA include New Zealand Automobile Association (NZAA) CEO Brian Gibbons who takes over the presidency of the FIA Senate, which oversees the FIA’s management and finances. Mike Noon, the NZAA’s general manager of motoring affairs, was elected president of Region II (Asia Pacific) for the FIA Mobility Programmes Committee. NZAA members Simon Douglas and Dougal Swift were also elected as vice-chairmen of the FIA Mobility Policy Commission and the FIA Mobility Services Commission respectively.

The FIA is comprised of 245 motoring and motor sport club members in 143 countries and has 80 million members. The FIA divides the world into seven zones with New Zealand in the Asia-Pacific region.

Thu, 7 Dec 2017 - Holder goes international with JWRC campaign in 2018

Rally driver David Holder aims to become the first New Zealander to contest the FIA Junior World Rally Championship, as the 2016 New Zealand rally champion prepares to take his rallying career international in 2018.

Tauranga-based Holder, age 28 and originally from Invercargill, will have regular co-driver Jason Farmer, from Hamilton, alongside him if he’s selected as a competitor in the five-round JWRC which is run by M-Sport Poland.

“Right from the outset, I’ve made no secret about rallying being more than a hobby for me. We had thought about entering the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, but this year’s fact-finding trip to the Spanish World Rally Championship event and other parts of Europe confirmed that this is where I need to be to continue learning and developing as a driver,” says Holder who counts Kiwi rally star Hayden Paddon among his mentors, with Paddon helping with connections and information while Holder was in Europe.

For Farmer the opportunity is an exciting unknown. “Competing in the JWRC is definitely going to be a challenge for Dave and myself,” says the 37-year-old who has co-driven for Holder since 2015. “We will be on the other side of the world in completely unfamiliar surroundings and on road surfaces we have never competed on before. But this just adds to the adventure. Dave and I have a strong relationship both in and out of the car and I am looking forward to taking on next season’s challenges alongside such a motivated and hard-working guy. We’re both grateful for the support of our families who have also embraced the adventure ahead of us next year.”

The JWRC follows the ‘arrive and drive’ formula established by the WRC Academy in 2011 with competitors driving the Ford Fiesta R2 EcoBoost rally cars built and maintained by M-Sport Poland under the guidance of team director Maciej Woda.

Holder has already registered for the championship, but must await the first selection of confirmed competitors being made on 15 December to be 100 per cent sure of his entry. Meanwhile, he’s hard at work trying to raise the necessary €185,000 budget.

Getting behind the wheel of a two-wheel-drive car again after two seasons in four-wheel-drive doesn’t faze Holder. “Strangely I’m really looking forward to being back in a 2WD, although I’ll find out quickly if any bad habits have developed after driving 4WDs. The low power combined with two less driving wheels means you really have to maximise corner speed all the time to be fast, so without a doubt the experience will make me a better driver in the long term.”

The five-round championship takes in some of the WRC’s key European events – Sweden in February, Corsica (France) in April, Portugal in May, Finland in July and the unknown roads of Turkey in September. Competitors count points from the best four of the five rounds. “We’re planning to do all five rounds. We need to get as much experience as we can on every possible WRC event, plus there’s always the chance of mechanical failure, so dropping a round only puts more pressure on the other events for a good result.”

Holder has his eye firmly on the very significant prize package on offer for the 2018 JWRC champion, which includes a brand-new Ford Fiesta R5 rally car, 200 tyres towards the 2019 WRC2 series, free fuel for seven rounds of 2019 WRC2, free WRC2 registration and free entry to some rallies.

“There’s no doubt the prize package on offer is fantastic, I mean who doesn’t want to win an R5 car?,” Holder says. “However, we need to be realistic about our first year over there. We’ll be up against young guys who not only already have a lot of experience on the events but are the brightest talents from around the world. Jason and I plan to take the first two rallies – Sweden and Corsica with their respective and unfamiliar snow and tarmac surfaces – steady and ensure we finish every kilometre to get the most from the experience. After that we'll have some knowledge of the car/team, so will target podium finishes for the second half of the season.”

This week Holder took a swift trip to the team’s base in Krakow, Poland to participate in an official ‘meet and greet’ with other prospective JWRC competitors. He also had the chance to meet some of the key M-Sport personnel and to get to grips with the one-litre Ecoboost Ford Fiesta R2, with tuition from former FIA WRC Academy Champion and 2017 Wales Rally GB winner Elfyn Evans.

Holder says he was made to feel very welcome at M-Sport Poland. “It’s nice to already feel part of the team here at M-sport. It looks like we will have a great team around us next year, which will let me and Jase focus on our job in the car.

“The facilities in Poland in incredible; everything is immaculate with each and every space/feature in the building designed for a specific purpose. The level of professionalism certainly jumps up a few notches when you see what goes on behind doors in a factory team.

“This visit has been a valuable opportunity to meet some of the other perspective drivers, some of who have already competed in the JWRC. Hearing some of their experiences is all valuable knowledge as we prepare for next year’s events.”

Holder’s run in the R2 Fiesta was essentially his first time on tarmac as well as his first time driving a left-hand-drive car. “It was extremely slippery so not really that representational, but great to get a feeling for the car. Elfyn was great with feedback, and really encouraging considering the slow speeds we were achieving. Regardless of the competitiveness, I approached it as a chance to gain some knowledge around the characteristics of the car. I also enjoyed the chance to get to know more of the team, as I’ll be working with them throughout next year more closely.”

With two months until the first event in Sweden, Holder and Farmer have both the funding and travel logistics to work on alongside their fitness regimes, which includes Farmer’s recovery from recent ankle surgery. They’re getting plenty of support, particularly from Paddon.

“Hayden’s been pivotal in a number of my career decisions, and always has wisdom and advice to offer in any rally situation. Now more than ever, his guidance will be key as we prepare for events that are new to us. Ultimately he’s been a big believer in me during the good times and the bad, so I’d love to reward his faith and perseverance with me by making it on the world stage.”

Paddon is delighted to see Holder pursue his dream of an international career. “It’s great to see Dave show it is possible for Kiwis to compete on the world stage. He has showed at the New Zealand level that he has the talent, and the next step from there is the support categories of the WRC. We all know the biggest hurdles are the financial barriers, but Dave is committed and working hard towards his dream. That passion and drive will take him a long way. Next year will be about gaining experience for him on what will be all new events, but I believe he can also deliver good results.”

Holder’s wife Adina may join them in Europe, as he’ll need a logistics and social media person on the ground. “Regardless of whether Adina is that person, there’s no questioning her support for the campaign, for which I’m very grateful. In her words, she’s ‘never felt more sure about a rally decision’.

“I’m also grateful for the support of Vehicle Inspection New Zealand (VINZ) and their CEO Gordon Shaw for the past two seasons. Now we’re working to build a family of supporters keen to help get the next New Zealander to the World Rally Championship,” Holder says. More information about Holder’s world rallying journey can be found on his Facebook page ENDS/