Former New Zealand rally champion David Holder will be returning to local competition in a familiar seat as part of his 2019 programme.

Mount Maunganui-based Holder will chase the Asia Pacific Rally Championship in 2019 as he looks to continue gaining international experience after contesting the Junior World Rally Championship in 2018.

The JWRC programme was in a front-wheel-drive Ford Fiesta and Holder returns to a turbocharged four-wheel-drive car for three 2019 events at the wheel of a car he's driven before.

He'll be driving the Holden Barina AP4 car campaigned in the past two years by Greg Murphy. Holder got two chances to drive the car in late-2017 when Murphy's Supercar broadcasting commitments clashed with the rally calendar.

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''Greg offered me the chance to drive the car in 2017 and since then we've built a friendship and he's been a mentor for me,'' Holder said.

''He's been trying to sell the car but we've managed to lease it for three rallies.

''I know the car after driving it in 2017 and it's had some suspension improvements last year which I'm looking forward to testing.

''It's taken a while to put it all together but I think Asia Pacific is a good direction for us in the short term. We're still intending to get back to Europe later in the year and see if we can drive an R5 car.''

David Holder drove the Holden Barina AP4 at Rally New Zealand in 2017. Photo / Photography Inmotion Greg Henderson
David Holder drove the Holden Barina AP4 at Rally New Zealand in 2017. Photo / Photography Inmotion Greg Henderson

Holder's programme begins with the Otago and Whangarei events which, along with being New Zealand championship events, both count as qualifiers for a revamped FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship.

''Those rallies will qualify us for a winner-takes-all final in China later in the year.

''I'm really looking forward to competing at the top level in New Zealand again. It's a chance to make ourselves relevant again at home. You're only as good as your last result and in New Zealand that was really back in 2016 when we won the championship.

''It will be cool to do New Zealand events again in a competitive car. Having been overseas you get an appreciation for how good and smooth the roads are here, especially in Otago.''

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Three other Kiwi crews are competing in Otago with the aim of qualifying for the Asia Pacific final which is China Rally Longyou over the October 26-27 weekend — where qualifiers from the Pacific Cup events in New Zealand and Australia will meet with Asia Cup region qualifiers from rallies in Japan and Indonesia.

Hayden Paddon intends to chase the APRC title in his Hyundai i20 AP4 while 2017 New Zealand champion Andrew Hawkeswood and his son Jack will run a pair of Mazda2 AP4 cars in the series.

Holder will lead a strong BOP contingent when the New Zealand Rally Championship begins with the Otago Rally over the April 13-14 weekend.

Tauranga's Phil Campbell will also be a leading contender in his Ford Fiesta AP4 and has been gaining early season mileage in rallysprint events.

Wayne Pittams (Ford Escort), Phil Macquarie (Subaru Impreza STI), Ben Thomasen (Subaru Impreza STI) and Leon Styles (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) have also entered the National Championship and Andy Martin is contesting the Otago Classic Rally in his Mazda RX3.