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Norwegian rally star Mads Ostberg will be the star driver at this year's Otago Classic Rally.
A former Ford, and current Citroen, World Rally Championship factory driver, Ostberg will make his Otago Classic Rally debut behind the wheel of a Ford Escort RS1800 at the April 14-15 event.
The 30-year-old Ostberg has competed in 111 WRC events, with 16 podium finishes and a debut victory in the 2012 Rally de Portugal in a privately entered Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
His co-driver is Belgian Stephane Prevot, who partnered Estonian Markko Martin to victory in the 2016 and 2017 Otago Classic Rallies.
Ostberg has already contested one event this year in his own 2017 Ford Fiesta World Rally Car, and will be part of the factory Citroen team in next month's Swedish Rally.
The Otago Rally will be his first event in New Zealand, and his first time driving a rear-wheel-drive Ford Escort RS1800.
``Like a lot of drivers in Europe, I've heard great things about the Otago Rally in New Zealand, and I'm really looking forward to driving there for the first time,'' he said.
``New Zealand's roads are world-famous, and I've heard that the Otago Rally has some of the best.
``While it will be difficult to go there for the first time and win, I'm looking forward to the challenge of driving the classic Escort and partnering with Stephane for the rally.
``I'm bringing my family with me, and it promises to be a fantastic adventure.''
Hayden Paddon's former WRC co-driver, John Kennard, had a lot to do with enticing Ostberg to the event, as did Brent Rawstron and his rally team, who will supply the car for Ostberg to drive.
``We are delighted to welcome Mads and his family to the Otago Classic Rally,'' Otago Rally spokesman Roger Oakley said.
``Mads joins a long list of international rally stars who have contested the Otago Classic Rally since 2002.
``We are delighted to welcome Stephane back for the third time. He is a real friend of the rally.
World Rally champions Bjorn Waldegard, Hannu Mikkola, Ari Vatanen, Juha Kankkunen, Miki Biasion and Didier Auriol have all been past competitors, as have Michele Mouton, Alex Fiorio, Russell Brookes, Jimmy McRae, Gwyndaf Evans, and Pasi Hagstrom.
The 2018 Otago Rally includes the Dunedin NZRC rally, the first round of the New Zealand Rally Championship.
A field of more than 100 competitors is expected to gather in Dunedin for the two-day event.