It's a long-odds equation that would allow Mt Maunganui's David Holder to continue his reign as the New Zealand rally champion beyond this weekend.

Holder has just a slim mathematical chance of retaining his national title at this weekend's Rally of New Zealand based in Tauranga. He is fourth in the championship standings and trails series leader Andrew Hawkeswood by 34 points heading into a two-day rally where a maximum of 44 points are available.

So Holder's focus this weekend is to deliver a strong finish as he makes his second appearance in the Holden Barina AP4 car for the Penny Homes Holden Rally Team.
Holder and local co-driver Jason Farmer have campaigned the Barina in the last two events of the year because regular driver Greg Murphy has broadcasting commitments with the V8 Supercars Championship.

"The main thing this weekend is to get a good result to repay the faith and trust that Murph has shown by giving us this chance to drive the Barina," said Holder.


"It's going to be hard for the championship contenders to compete against Hayden [Paddon] so we will focus on our own rally and use it as another learning experience."

After clinching the 2016 national title, Holder began this season with two rallies in Paddon's car - posting a victory at the Otago season opener - and then missed the third round. He borrowed a 20-year-old Subaru to gain valuable points at Coromandel and then drove the Barina to sixth place at the Waitomo event last month.

"Since Waitomo, I've been right through the Barina to learn more about it and made changes to the springs and sway bars. We had a good test last weekend, and it suits my driving style better."

Holder said he was looking forward to a rally based out of Tauranga.

"We have some friends and sponsors who've supported us for a long time coming out to watch. In my entire career, I've never done a rally which I'd consider as being my home event before."

This weekend's event is the first time the Rally New Zealand silverware has been up for grabs since the World Rally Championship last visited in 2012.

New Zealand's WRC star Hayden Paddon is top seed and main drawcard competing in his Hyundai i20 AP4 car while the national title decider is poised to be a three-way fight with Hawkeswood (Mazda2 AP4) holding the advantage after five rounds with 109 points. He's chased by Subaru drivers Ben Hunt (Auckland) on 99 points and Matt Summerfield (Rangiora) with 98 points while Holder has 75 points.

The rally opens with a ceremonial start at The Strand in downtown Tauranga from 5pm tomorrow with the first car driving over the start ramp at 6.15pm.


Saturday's action uses the renowned Rally New Zealand west coast stages near Raglan and Te Akau.

The rally cars return to Tauranga for the Saturday evening service at ASB Stadium Baypark where the first car is due to check in at 6.25pm. There are six stages on Sunday - two loops of Manawahe Rd near Lake Rotoma, a sprint through the TECT All Terrain Park and the Mangatoi Rd/Mountain Rd stage near Pyes Pa and Oropi.