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New Zealand’s only five-time national rally champion has been easing himself back into some club-level competition. Masterton-based Richard Mason clinched his fifth NZRC crown in 2014 and then stepped away from the sport. The most recent rally outing for Richard and wife Sara ended with an early retirement at the 2016 Taranaki Tarmac Rally. The Masons stepped back into competition late last year and have done another four events during the COVID-19 interrupted year. They won the Tokomaru East Road Rallysprint at Whanganui in July, and were in action most recently at the Hawke’s Bay Car Club Mokamoka Road gravel sprint on August 16. There, they took their well-known EVOETA "bug eye’’ Subaru Impreza to victory ahead of Mason Grimmer (Mazda 323) and Andrew Elder (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 5). "We haven’t done much at all for about five years,’’ Mason said.
"But I’ve been enjoying myself making a few changes to this car, playing around with a few ideas. I think we’ve got it going pretty good.

Richard and Sara Mason with their "EVOETA" Subaru Impreza WRX. Photo: Geoff Ridder

"At the last couple of events Sara and I have written some notes We made notes on one pass and as you’d expect, Sara did a great job reading them even though it’s been a few years. "The Whanganui event was the best part of 10km in each direction so it was like a mini rally.’’ Mason says the recent events have been low-key and enjoyable. "I’d like to think we could be semi-competitive against the top guys, remembering it’s a 20-year-old car with nothing like the suspension travel of the modern cars and a simple Group N centre diff. "But that’s not really the reason I’m doing it. "My goal is to show some of the young guys who are around at the moment that they don’t need to have the latest and most expensive car. "Because if they really have some talent, they’ll be able to show that in something like this car, before trying to move into the latest and greatest.’’

Richard Mason in action at Rally Wairarapa in 2015. Photo: Geoff Ridder

Mason insists he has no plans for a more serious return to rallying. "I don’t think so. Something would have to change and that something would involve money,’’ he said. "I’ve been really enjoying the Dannevirke Car Club stuff and we have teenage twin daughters who have started auto-crossing.
"It was always my dream to one day compete in a WRC tarmac event, but that just remains a dream.’’
The Mason's next planned outing is the Whanganui Car Club’s Mini Pikes Peak Hillclimb at Rangitatau East Road on Saturday, September 26.
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