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Asia-Pacific Region Selects it's "Pirelli Star Driver"

Mark Tapper from New Zealand is the driver who has been chosen to represent the Asia-Pacific Region in the Pirelli Star Driver scheme. The 27 year-old from Auckland beat nine other contenders in the selection process, which took place over two rallies in New Zealand and Malaysia.

Milan, 15 October 2008 - The New Zealander Mark Tapper, aged 27 and co-driven by Jeff Cress - has won the Pirelli Star Driver selection process for the Asia-Pacific region. Mark is the second to be named of five drivers who will benefit from the initiative, organised jointly by Pirelli and the FIA, to give young drivers a foot into the door of the FIA World Rally Championship. This comes through backing these drivers at the very highest levels of the sport.

The Pirelli Star Driver programme will give five young talents (one each from Africa, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific regions, plus two from Europe) the chance to contest six WRC events in a Group N or S2000 car prepared and run by a top team. The drivers who earn a place on the Pirelli Star Driver scheme next year will get a chance to show what they can do in Portugal, Italy, Greece, Finland, Spain and Great Britain.

Mark Tapper was chosen to represent the Asia-Pacific region through two events on the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, the Whangarei Rally in New Zealand (which took place from June 7-8) and the Malaysia Rally (from October 11-12). A total of 10 young drivers fighting for the Pirelli Star Driver award took the start of this latter event. Despite the insidiously damp surfaces of the Malaysian stages, Tapper outclassed all his rivals from the Asia-Pacific region - which he and his co-driver Jeff Cress will now represent on the 2009 World Rally Championship.

"Being a rally driver was always my dream, since I first started to become interested in cars as a small kid," said Tapper. "So winning the Pirelli Star Driver selection process is a satisfaction that I'm not able to put into words: this programme opens up the world to me and gives me a great deal of happiness. I hope that I will be able to amply repay everybody who has shown faith in me - especially my parents - and I'm convinced that myself and Jeff will be able to do New Zealand proud when we drive on the World Rally Championship next year. My objective on our European programme next year will be firstly to finish all the events and secondly to show that we are competitive. I'd like to thank the FIA and Pirelli for giving us this incredible opportunity."

Two more places on the Pirelli Star Driver programme will be allocated from October 23-25 in Freistadt (Austria). Several up-and-coming European stars, along with one driver from Central America and one from South America, will take part in a shoot-out to determine two winners.

October 2008