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Cromwell-based Hayden Paddon will start as the top seed and he plans to up the pace he showed last year when he and co-driver John Kennard won the event by nearly 5min.
This year he will have Samantha Gray calling the pace notes from the passenger seat of his Hyundai i20 AP4.
Run by the South Canterbury Car Club, the event is the New Zealand Rally Championship's fourth round but, as Paddon has not entered the full series this year, he is competing in the all-comers' category.
''It's been a while since an event hasn't counted towards a championship, but it doesn't change anything about how we approach things or the overall results. The target is always to win which will be no different this weekend,'' he said.
Queenstown's Mike Sheehan is ''cautiously optimistic' that the thumb injury that affected his driving ability at the previous NZRC round in Canterbury has healed enough to allow him ''a step up of performance''.
The nearly 200km of fast-flowing roads suit the lower horsepower cars, such as his 170hp Ford Fiesta, more than the tight, twisty rallies, he said.
With a solid lead over his nearest rivals in the FIA group N 2WD category, Sheehan wants to curb his natural instinct to battle for a class win.
''It's a delicate position we are in. We want to fight with them but if we get second place for the rest of the season, we can still get the title.''
Dunedin rally driver Emma Gilmour is out for redemption after the mechanical issues with her recently refurbished Suzuki Swift AP4 that have marred the start to her 2019 NZRC season.
''It has been a tight turn-around to get a new engine in the car but great to do a test today before the weekend to give me more seat time as well,'' she said.
The event uses Timaru's Levels Raceway as its base, with two service breaks in nearby Fairlie. It wraps up with a tarmac dash around the circuit from 3pm onwards.