A comprehensive three-part scholarship programme running over three years has been launched by Rally New Zealand to help foster and develop the talents of young kiwi rally drivers.
"In 2009, the 'rising star' scholarship and two categories of 'rising star' award will offer aspiring and current rally drivers under the age of 26 significant opportunities to advance their rallying careers, locally and internationally," explained a statement to the media.
The objective is to help find rallying's equivalent of kiwi single-seater racing stars like Scott Dixon and Brendon Hartley, explained Rally New Zealand chairman Chris Carr.
“There is a wealth of young rallying talent in New Zealand,” said Carr. “But we haven't seen a New Zealander take on the world's rally stars since the late Possum Bourne proved such a success internationally.
“Open to applicants less than 26 years of age on 1 January 2009, the programmes we have developed aim to provide very tangible benefits to the selected young drivers with financial, professional and competitive driving aspects all covered in their assessment and prize packages.
“We believe, with the right support, there are New Zealanders with the talent to compete in international rallying with great success. Our programme aims to help uncover and foster the special skills needed to succeed in world rallying.”
The first programme, the Rally New Zealand rising stars scholarship, will provide the winner with an extensive support package worth approximately $50,000, including a professionally-prepared Group N3 front-wheel-drive rally car, to compete in all five rounds of the New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) plus Rally New Zealand in 2009.
“The rising stars scholarship is for aspiring rally drivers who have not registered for Group N in the NZRC previously,” explained Carr. “Essentially, the winner will earn a virtually fully-funded drive in the five national rallies plus Rally New Zealand this coming year. Within the next month, we will open applications for the 12 slots for our shootout weekend which will take place by early March. The applicants will go through a multi-stage testing process including physical fitness and mental aptitude testing, media interviews, a sponsorship presentation, a panel interview, and tuition and driving in front-wheel-drive rally cars.
“The top four candidates are then tested in a run-off, accompanied by a judge, with a final interview to select the winner. It will be an intense weekend, but a very worthwhile experience for any young driver seeking to prove their skills with a rally car and understand all the aspects of their personal presentation, fitness and preparation required for a professional rally career.”