Masterton’s Richard and Sara Mason have shown a clean pair of heels to the world class field at today’s opening day of Repco Rally New Zealand – leading Kiwi’s in the Production World Rally Championship (P-WRC) category.
 
The first of two days in the penultimate round of the 2008 Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship, the Subaru team have a 33.5 second lead over the San Marino based driver Mirco Baldacci.
 
“It’s been really good,” said the 30-year old Mason.  “We’re quite surprised that we’re doing so well on an unknown tyre,” he said of the control Pirelli Scorpion tyre used by all the teams at the 11th round of the World Rally Championship event.
 
Competing down the start order in a disadvantaged road position – the pair showed no mercy for the changing road conditions that created many of the day-ending tales for higher placed teams.
Dominate from the first stage; Mason’s performance out-shone the three Kiwi competitors running in the world category field, with Hayden Paddon second Kiwi, seventh in the P-WRC and 18th overall, while Stewart Taylor followed in ninth.
 
Traversing six gravel tests in the Waitomo district, the New Zealand field featured strongly against the more experienced drivers.  Fourth Kiwi was Rotorua’s Emma Gilmour (Subaru), followed by Masterton’s Brett Martin (Mitsubishi) – placed 22nd overall.
 
Initially leading Kiwi, Christchurch’s Chris West and co-driver Garry Cowan had a lucky reprieve when they managed to arrive at the mid-day service minus the steering wheel.
 
“Apart from breaking the steering wheel off – it wasn’t too bad,” described West.
Breaking free from the steering column 10 kilometres from the end of the final stage before the service break, the team raided a fellow competitor’s road car for a temporary afternoon replacement.
 
Entertaining a significant spectator audience; ‘pretty amazing’ was the commentator's call of the crowds watching today’s action.
 
Australian Brendan Reeves topped the two-wheel drive category in a Kayne Barrie leased Ford Fiesta, finishing ahead of the remaining Fiesta of Dermott Malley.  The cars of Patrick Malley and Ben Jagger were forced in to retirement for the day with drive failure.
 
Starting with a field of 57 cars from the Mystery Creek Event Centre, 47 survived the first day.  With a further six stages on Saturday (30th August) in the Franklin and Port Waikato area, the field will be joined by the Kiwi-2 and classic classes for the final day of championship competition.
 
The remaining day of Repco Rally New Zealand counts toward the Woolf-Whittaker Memorial Trophy as first Kiwi team home.

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