Frontrunners Citroen and Ford face anxious waits for approval of their new cars ahead of next week's Propecia Rally New Zealand, but rivals Hyundai has already had the chance to test its latest creation.

The FIA has homologated the 2003 Hyundai Accent WRC3.5, but has yet to approve either Citroen's latest Xsara or Ford's heavily revised Focus. All three cars are scheduled to appear - and therefore require homologation - in New Zealand next week. Despite the apparent delay, sources believe that there are no significant impediments for both cars which should gain homologation as early as today [Saturday], following discussion of minor changes.

Hyundai's Armin Schwarz is hoping a new engine planned for the Accent WRC3 on Rally New Zealand will boost his chances.

"We will get a new engine and new dampers for New Zealand," the German said, "It's more or less sure because the homologation for the engine was planned for 1 April.

"The engine will have a new turbo as well, but most of the development was made in mid range revs - that was the area where we complained. The revisions will give us improved mid-range torque. The car worked well in Turkey, so there is no reason why it should not be okay in New Zealand."

Hyundai has been hit by financial troubles, which had prevented it from testing for the first three rounds of the season. However, the team headed to Spain last week, with Freddy Loix behind the wheel for the first two days of the test, before Schwarz taking over the final two days. The German says he's looking forward to putting the car through its paces.

"The engine and dampers had been tested by the team for six days in the UK," he said, "And they were happy. It's nice to be out again. It will give the whole team a lift and we can improve the car.

"Now we have to look to New Zealand. The Accent has always run well there - it's a nice smooth and fast gravel rally that is much kinder on the car and I look forward to being able to get a good result.''

Propecia Rally New Zealand gets underway with the official shakedown near Helensville and ceremonial start in Aotea Square in downtown Auckland on Thursday 10 April. The rally proper starts on Friday with the first two days centred on the Kaipara township of Paparoa, north of Auckland, before returning for the popular super special stage at Manukau City on Saturday evening. Sunday's final day moves to the northern Waikato at Te Akau and Maramarua Forest before the official
finish at the Manukau Sportsbowl at 3.30pm.