New Zealand

Surface: Gravel

This is one of the few events that all the drivers love due to its fast, smooth gravel stages that reward good driving with fast times and challenge the driver to his limit.

It's a rally that more than deserves its 33-year stint on the international rallying calendar, and most hope it stays on for at least another three decades to come. The first event in 1969 was named, rather humbly, the Shell Silver Fern Rally and was won by Grady Thompson and Rick Rimmer in a V8-powered Holden Monaro.

The machinery has changed beyond the locals' imagination since then, but the Auckland crowd is as passionate about rallying today as it always has been and there is a huge turnout to watch today's four-wheel-drive monsters breathing fire through the forests.

Against the lush backdrops of green fields and open spaces that make up the New Zealand countryside, rally drivers contend with more than 300 horsepower on opposite lock through sweeping open bends. It's a fast event, which suits Colin aggressive style down to the ground.

McRae has won here in the past too, taking a hat-trick of wins between 1993 and 1995. In recent years Peugeot has taken over in New Zealand, but Colin joined the team because he felt it was the only one who could take it to the class-leading 206.

This is exactly the kind of event, one in which he has performed so well in the past, that Colin will find out exactly what the Xsara is capable of.

The route

'Best stages in the world'. That's what the drivers will tell you. That and 'fast and flowing'. These may sound like clichés, but if you have ever seen snatches of the rally on TV you will know exactly what the drivers mean.