Young rally drivers from around New Zealand can start getting their applications ready for the 2010 Rising Stars Scholarship programme run by Rally New Zealand.

The driver development programme - which includes the entry level Scholarship and two tiers for more experienced drivers, the Development Award and the International Award - ran for the first time in 2009.

"It's a pretty straightforward concept - we want to help young New Zealand rally drivers develop a whole range of skills that could see them secure an internationally-successful career as a professional rally driver," explained Chris Carr, chairman of Rally New Zealand.

Nelson's Ben Hunt, winner of the inaugural Scholarship, says he's been blown away by the chance to work with so many well-known and highly experienced rally competitors during his Scholarship season.

"Not many people can enjoy the constructive feedback of Kiwi rally stars like Neil Allport in their first full season of rallying, or a fully-prepared Ford Fiesta from acknowledged Fiesta expert Kayne Barrie. And those are just two things that the Rally New Zealand Rising Stars Scholarship has provided me," added the now 21-year-old.

"It's an absolutely fantastic experience, to have the support of so many people at Rally New Zealand. This Scholarship has opened more doors than you could possibly imagine when you first apply. I can only recommend others who are serious about building a career in rallying to try out for this Scholarship."

Applications for the 2010 Rising Stars Scholarship are now open with the deadline for completed application forms to be at the Rally New Zealand office set for November 2 2009.

To be eligible, applicants must be less than 26 years of age on 1 January 2010, a member of a MotorSport New Zealand-affiliated car club, and not previously have registered as an entrant in the New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) in a Group N car.

"The Rally New Zealand Rising Stars Scholarship provides the winner with a support package worth over $50,000, including use of a vehicle to contest the two-wheel-drive production category, or N3 class, of the 2010 New Zealand Rally Championship, including Rally New Zealand which takes place 6 to 8 May 2010," Carr added.

"The package also includes professional mentoring, and as the Rally New Zealand Scholarship holder, the winner can expect to enjoy an enhanced profile during Rally New Zealand next May in front of the world's elite World Rally Championship teams.

"As Ben says, there are many positive elements of winning this Scholarship. At the shootout weekend in March this year, the twelve applicants had the chance to talk to several people working in a range of rallying roles - everything from how timecards work to preparing for a media interview, as well as driving rally cars on the popular roads of the Maramarua Forest - thus fast-tracking a lot of learning for a young driver in a short space of time.

"This year we will run the Scholarship shootout programme from 20 to 22 November, the same weekend our expert team is assessing the top points' scoring entrants in the 2009 Rising Stars Development Award and International Award.

"This provides the opportunity to rub shoulders with New Zealand's top drivers who have scored the most points in the Development and International Awards - the exact drivers attending the shootout weekend to decide who wins these awards for the first time will be known after the last qualifying event, Rally Nelson, in September. We also have even more structured opportunities for learning planned which the applicants will do between their individual assessment challenges, which include fitness tests, media and sponsor interviews, panel interviews and driving assessments."

With applications for the 2010 Rising Stars Scholarship closing on 2 November, applicants will be advised whether they've made it to the shootout weekend by 9 November.

"This gives our selected Scholarship candidates one week to finish their sponsorship proposal for assessment, and then prepare for the shootout weekend which starts on Friday 20 November and continues in the Maramarua Forest over the weekend," Carr continued.

"We look forward to meeting the 2010 Scholarship applicants. It's an exciting time for us, as the organisers of Rally New Zealand, to see the potential among our young drivers and to know that our Rising Stars driver development programme has a valid and worthwhile role to play in fostering careers in rallying."

Full details and application forms are available at www.rallynz.org.nz or contact Paul Mallard at Rally New Zealand on 09 276 0882.

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