A massive effort from Masterton husband-and-wife pairing Richard and Sara Mason has given victory at this weekend’s Trusthouse Racetech Rally Wairarapa. The hard-fought win also puts the local duo into the lead of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship with three of this year’s five rounds now complete.

However, at lunchtime on Saturday, the situation was looking very different for the Masons who were more than three minutes adrift of overnight leader Chris West, from Christchurch, due to a turbocharger failure in their Subaru Impreza rally car.  After repairs to the car at the late morning service break, the pair then fought back to finish Saturday in fifth place 55 seconds adrift of West and arguably out of contention for the rally win.

Mason then went on to win three of Sunday’s nine stages run on roads in northern Wairarapa, taking the overall lead from defending champion Dean Sumner, of Rotorua, on the penultimate test. Mason then spun in the final stage, but held on to take the rally victory by 4.4 seconds from Sumner.

Third overall, after enduring a roller-coaster weekend, was Feilding’s Geof Argyle who put his open class four-wheel-drive Mitsubishi into a podium position ahead of Rotorua’s Sloan Cox, who had been a strong front-runner throughout the weekend. Another who suffered issues was championship contender, Emma Gilmour, from Dunedin. Breaking a driveshaft in her Vantage Aluminium Subaru on Saturday’s third stage, Gilmour had to play catch-up, eventually finishing fifth overall.

Mason’s win means he takes the championship points’ lead from Hayden Paddon, who wasn’t at Rally Wairarapa, instead competing in Rally Argentina in the Production World Rally Championship category. Mason now has a 46 point advantage over Paddon, with 302 points. Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour is third in the championship standings with 239 points, Sumner is fourth with 228 and West fifth with 191 points.

“I’d have to say it’s been a while since I’ve driven that hard,” said Mason. “But it was worth it. We were aiming to win the rally and that’s never an easy thing, but we certainly didn’t expect it to be as difficult as it was. So to come through and win is an awesome thing and to have a good lead in the championship too – now we’ve just got to maintain that.

“I went as fast as the car could go on Saturday morning when we lost the turbo. Because we had some really difficult stages to do later in the day I knew if we had any chance of getting back to the front it was all going to happen then. We really tried hard and made up a lot of time and that’s where we really won the rally.

“The crew have done a lot of work this weekend and had to have everything spot-on because we’ve had to be going so flat-out in it,” Mason said of their BNT-supported Subaru STI.

The overall result would have been very different had overnight leader Chris West not incurred over two minutes of penalties first thing this morning when his Mitsubishi suffered electrical issues. West put in a valiant effort throughout Sunday, winning three of the day’s stages and setting a new stage record to finish sixth overall and just over a minute behind Mason. West said the problem was a fault they have still yet to identify.

“The car just wouldn’t run properly, after we’d spent so much time on it last night, including driving for an hour with a data logger to check everything was okay,” said West. “So we had about a dozen people flat-out trying to get it sorted this morning but it’s still not quite right and because it’s not always evident it’s very frustrating. Otherwise the car feels great. We’ve done a lot of hard work; it’s just bad luck I think.”

Nelson’s Ben Hunt had a fine battling with the bigger four-wheel-drive cars in his two-wheel-drive Ford Fiesta. The former Rally New Zealand Rising Stars Scholarship holder secured his third successive round win in the 2WD championship class, finishing 12th overall behind the Subaru of Christchurch’s Matt Jansen.

“Our main goal is to try get into the top ten at most rallies and get in amongst those 4WD cars as much as we can, as well as being the top 2WD finisher. The little Fiestas suit these roads and the last couple years at Wairarapa have been pretty good to us,” said 22-year-old Hunt. “So I was hoping that I could carry on with past successes again this year and we ended up doing that which is good!”

Hunt also has the lead in the junior drivers’ rally championship to be 51 points ahead of Whangarei’s Ben Jagger.

Hastings-based Ron Davey took the historic category round in his Ford Escort which earned him the Malcolm Stewart Classic Rally title. In a similar car, Hamilton’s Gary Smith was third home in the historic class and now holds a three-point lead in the New Zealand rally historic challenge trophy ahead of Birkenhead’s Rob Wylie, who suffered from a fuel issue in his Nissan 240RS.

Argyle’s strong finish – third overall – sees him maintain his very strong lead in the open class four-wheel-drive category.

Subaru keeps its lead in the manufacturer standings, 84 points ahead of rival Mitsubishi.

Teams now have six weeks until their next NZRC event, the International Rally of Whangarei which runs from 15 to 17 July and offers local competitors an opportunity to pace themselves against a very competitive Asia Pacific Rally Championship field. The Whangarei event will also feature Hayden Paddon running his New Zealand-based Subaru. The New Zealand Rally Championship concludes with Rally Hawke’s Bay running from 20 to 21 August and enjoys the support of the Brian Green Property Group, Neil Allport Motorsports, Subaru New Zealand and Vantage Aluminium.

More details, including results and news, are on the NZRC website – www.nzrallychampionship.co.nz – and fans can also find out more information about any of the events on the New Zealand Rally Championship Facebook page.

Overall results (top ten)

Pos, No, Driver/co-driver, Car, Hometown, Time
1, 1, Richard Mason/Sara Mason, Subaru, Masterton, 3:03:00.2
2, 4, Dean Sumner/Paul Fallon, Mitsubishi, Rotorua, +4.4
3, 5, Geof Argyle/Phillip Deakin, Mitsubishi, Feilding, +36.9
4, 7, Sloan Cox/Tarryn Cox, Mitsubishi, Rotorua, +1:01.5
5, 2, Emma Gilmour/Glenn Macneall, Subaru, Dunedin, +1:04.1
6, 3, Chris West/Erin Kyle, Mitsubishi, Timaru, +1:16.8
7, 6, Glenn Inkster/Glenn Goldring, Mitsubishi, Howick, +2:37.1
8, 9, Neil Marshall/Richard Carr, Mitsubishi, New Plymouth, +3:22.5
9, 36, Stewart Taylor/Warwick Searle, Mitsubishi, Hastings, +4:13.3
10, 8, Ben Jagger/Ben Hawkins, Subaru, Whangarei, +5:49.4

Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship
Goldstar drivers’ championship points after round three of five (top ten)

Pos, Name, Hometown, Points

1, Richard Mason, Masterton, 302
2, Hayden Paddon, Geraldine, 256
3, Emma Gilmour, Dunedin, 239
4, Dean Sumner, Rotorua, 228
5, Chris West, Timaru, 191
6, Glenn Inkster, Howick, 185
7, Sloan Cox, Rotorua, 161
8, Ben Hunt, Nelson, 151
9, Ben Jagger, Whangarei, 133
10, Josh Marston, Christchurch, 129

Full points-tables are available on http://www.chrissport.co.nz/points/2011/nzrcpoints.htm

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