Two of New Zealand's best rally drivers, Emma Gilmour and Richard Mason, have been selected by Rally New Zealand to receive special wildcard entries for the FIA Production World Rally Championship class of the event taking place from May 6-9 this year.
The 'wildcard' or guest entry for this global production car category of rallying offers both Gilmour and Mason to prove their skills on the world stage.
“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.”
Mason will unveil his new Subaru Group N, or production class, car after Easter. In the meantime, he's delighted to have his second opportunity as a Rally New Zealand wildcard entry in the PWRC field.
“We've be awarded the wildcard 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.”
In his previous runs in the PWRC field, Mason finished third twice and second once in Australia and New Zealand.
“We're definitely aiming to go one better this year – top of the PWRC podium,” he added. “This gives a great lift to our plans to win the New Zealand Rally Championship title again this year. And with the new car we're about to unveil, we have the best opportunity we've ever had to do well in the PWRC field in 2010.”
As a PWRC guest entrant, Mason would normally carry number 49 but in honour of Rally New Zealand's 40th anniversary in 2010, the former New Zealand rally champion will carry number 40 on his Subaru rally car.
“Normally number 40 is allocated to a Pirelli Star driver, Ott Tanak, but he's not coming to New Zealand, so the FIA has allowed the number to be assigned to Richard Mason,” explained Carr.
Gilmour meanwhile is currently ranked as the world's top woman rally driver courtesy of her second place in the 2009 Asia Pacific Rally Championship. However Gilmour herself isn't concerned with rankings by gender – she's simply excited to be chosen by Rally New Zealand as one of the PWRC guest entries in 2010.