Briton Cook, 25, will chase her third win in the FIA Production Car Cup for Drivers of 2WD Cars, while Karlsson will be back in action for the first time since her aborted run on Philips Rally Argentina back in April when a mechanical failure forced her retirement after the opening stage.
Cook will be making her Rally New Zealand debut in a Ford Fiesta ST hired locally for the event. She said: “I had to choose at least one long haul round and New Zealand looked great. My brother has been travelling around the country and my late father spoke very highly of New Zealand.
“It would be great to finish and to learn the character of the place. It can sound lame doing these events and aiming to see all the stages, but it is so important to my career right now. If the notes are going well and the car feels right, I will have a push but 2012 is a no-risk season to get ready for 2013.”
Karlsson, a 31-year-old from Sweden, and co-driver Miriam Walfridsson form the only all-female crew on the event in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Like Cook, Karlsson (pictured) will be a New Zealand novice when the rally begins in Auckland on Thursday.
“I’ve heard the roads are very good quality, and I’ve looked at some in-car movies that really make me long to be there,” Karlsson said. “If we will be in top five, we will be satisfied.”
A total of nine PWRC drivers will be in action in New Zealand. However, with title leader Benito Guerra and second-placed Michal Kosciuszko not taking part, Ukrainian Valeriy Gorban will be looking to build on his class win in Greece last month by moving to the top of the championship table.
Argentina’s Marcos Ligato will also be anxious to impress having retired on the Acropolis Rally. Subhan Aksa, second in Greece, can rely on the services of Kiwi co-driver Jeff Judd, while Lorenzo Bertelli, Oleksii Kikireshko, Gianluca Linari and Ricardo Trivinho will all be hoping to score points.