Supercars racing star Shane van Gisbergen has confirmed he will take to the gravels in racing Rally Hawke's Bay on July 23.
But it's far from being a first for the reigning Repco Supercars champion and former Bathurst 1000 winner, who is now well-settled in a mix of challenges which has included racing the circuits of the US and last month's Le Mans 24 Hours in France.
He has raced in the Australian rally championship, won the Far North Rally on Saturday, and is lining up the Kennedy Park Resort Rally Hawke's Bay as a prelude to his first World Rally Championship start in Repco Rally New Zealand at the end of September.
The busy schedule also includes the next round of the Australian Supercars Championship in Townsville, North Queensland, at the end of this week.
Also busy is champion rally driver Hayden Paddon, who has already secured his third consecutive national rally championship win after a maximum-points clean sweep of the first three rounds - Rally Otago in April, the International Rally of Whangarei in May and last month's South Canterbury. This enabled him to head to Europe and skip defending the Rally Hawke's Bay title he won last year.
van Gisbergen will race the same Skoda Fabia R5 he raced at the weekend, which wasn't a championship round, and in the Australian championship round near Canberra.
New Zealand championship co-ordinator Blair Bartels says it's a "real coup" to have the 33-year-old competing in Hawke's Bay and he expects a big turnout of rally fans and other members of the public on July 23.
"Shane is one of the biggest names in Kiwi sport and his entry will bring a significant level of wider interest, which is great for our championship," says Bartels.
About 60 cars will race Rally Hawke's Bay, going on display at the Soundshell from about 4pm the day beforehand.
The cars will leave from the Hawke's Bay Car Club in Maraekakako Rd, Bridge Pa, heading for the first stages around Kereru, west of Hastings. Storms which badly damaged roads in Northern Hawke's Bay in March have kept the Wairoa District off the route this year, and much of the rally will be in Central and Southern Hawke's Bay, with a base at Porangahau, the rally returning to finish at Taradale in the afternoon.
Club president Trevor Corbin said the van Gisbergen appearance would add more interest to the event in what is the club's 75th anniversary year. It was a founding member of Motorsport New Zealand, which is also marking its 75th anniversary this year.
He said the club usually has about 40 members involved in various roles in the rally.
"We've got plenty of people," he said. "They will all put their hands up this year."