The New Zealand Herald

Holder a step closer to WRC

Former national champion earns crack at Junior WRC, just below world rallying pinnacle

- Dale Budge

Kiwi rally driver David Holder has taken a big step towards emulating mentor Hayden Paddon by securing a drive in the Junior World Rally Championsh­ip in 2018.

The 2016 New Zealand Rally Championsh­ip winner becomes just the third Kiwi to contest a full World Rally Championsh­ip after the late Possum Bourne and current Hyundai WRC driver Paddon.

Holder is this week in Poland, where he will meet the M-Sport Ford outfit and some of the other competitor­s he will be up against.

“It is a big step up, with the end goal of being where Hayden Paddon is at,” Holder said. “There are plenty of steps to go — this is the first one — learn the rallies and do the twowheel drive championsh­ip next year, and then progress from there.”

The Junior World Championsh­ip is seen as a stepping stone to the WRC and is held over five rallies.

“Everyone is running in an R2 Fiesta — a 1-litre, turbo, two-wheel drive car,” Holder explained. “Everyone is in the same thing, run by the same team, which is M-Sport, so it all comes down to the drivers and what they can do on the selected events.

“The idea of the championsh­ip is a broad array of rallies to test the drivers — we start with Sweden, which is snow, then Corsica, which is tarmac, before three gravel rallies. It will be a big learning experience while trying to be competitiv­e as well.”

While Holder’s primary goals will be to gain experience, there is also a huge reward for the driver who wins the title: a new Ford Fiesta R5, a category 2 world rally car, plus free entry fees, fuel and 200 tyres for the class in 2019. “I think it’s a two-fold goal for us,” Holder said. “To go there and do these rounds and compete overseas for the first time is a huge undertakin­g, so we want to go there and do a lot of learning and test ourselves against these guys.

“But you can’t negate the fact that is a big prize on offer, so when it comes time to deliver the goods later in the season on the gravel events that we are a bit more familiar with, we will be trying to put some points on the board.”

Several WRC drivers have contested this category: Sebastien Loeb, Sebastien Ogier and current M-Sport factory driver Elfyn Evans all entered the elite level via this championsh­ip.

“It’s certainly a big opportunit­y for David,” Paddon said. “The JWRC has always been the stepping stone to WRC. Being with M-Sport is a good environmen­t for him to learn. It’s very different to the New Zealand Championsh­ip but I think David will adapt quite well to that.

“He’s a very capable driver, he looks after the car, he’s very smooth, listens to all the advice he’s given and is always willing to learn.

“He has a great opportunit­y and I think he will make the most of it.”

The cost of entering the championsh­ip is significan­t but Holder is confident he has the budget to do it. Vehicle Inspection NZ are supporting him but he’s looking for more sponsors to make the dream happen.

“It comes with a price tag of $240,000 for the arrive-and-drive aspect of it and then you need to get yourself over there and accommodat­ion and all that. The package is worth around $320,000 to do the championsh­ip, which is a lot of money. We’ve got a wee bit of work to do on the budget aspect of it but we’re just focusing on one step at a time and making sure we’re there at the start line in February.”

 ??  ?? David Holder is seeking more sponsors to help him foot the estimated $320,000 bill to contest the JWRC.
David Holder is seeking more sponsors to help him foot the estimated $320,000 bill to contest the JWRC.
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 ??  ?? David Holder
David Holder
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