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Richard and Sara Mason have won the final round of the 2008 Vantage New Zealand Rally Championship, comprehensively winning the 0800 Boxman Rally of Nelson.
The final of six rounds in the all gravel championship, Sunday’s nine stages through forests south of host city Nelson were dominated by the Subaru pairing, winning by 43.8 seconds over Mitsubishi’s Chris West and co-driver Garry Cowan.
“We’ve had a few DNF’s (Did Not Finish) this year which has made life a little bit challenging,” said Richard Mason.  “It’s good to get the BNT car back on the top of the ramp – nice to do it down here at Nelson at the end of the year – it’s a good way to cap it off and get second in the championship.”
Third was Rotorua’s Emma Gilmour and co-driver Glenn Macneall in a Subaru Impreza – 1 minute 24 seconds behind the leader.
A one-day sprint, the near 200 kilometres of testing conditions took their toll on the championship field – a foggy start ending with rainy reception at the Nelson World of Wearable Arts (WOW) complex.
With dust a factor early in the day, punctures from the sharp rocks littering the road surface plagued a number of potential front-runners.  Although playing road-sweeper, Mason had the benefit of a cleaner road surface – taking five stage wins along the way.
While second, West, with three stage wins, was unable to overturn the early lead Mason established – placing West’s Christchurch team third overall for the six-month season.
Going down to the wire – the Kiwi-2 two-wheel drive title ended in the lap of Wellington’s Aaron Cook (Honda Jazz) after seeing his commanding lead reversed by contender Patrick Malley in a Ford Fiesta.
Admitting to being ‘caught out’ by the pace of his rivals – Cook clawed back enough time to take his second championship title by seven points.
“We knew we had to – of course,” said Cook of the battle to finish the rally to secure the title, while second placed Malley instead secured the Fiesta Sporting Trophy title: “We had a couple little issues – but we played through it and we almost got first – it just didn’t work out like we wanted it to.”
The reward is an expenses paid trip to the United Kingdom to compete in the international shoot-out with other Fiesta drivers to find a winner for a driving scholarship with Ford’s M-Sport programme.
While championship winner Hayden Paddon didn’t end up contesting the Nelson rally, his Goldstar title lead elevated Mitsubishi to the manufacturers’ title – the first time since 2000.
Each of the category champions will be awarded their category trophies at the annual MotorSport New Zealand awards dinner.
Goldstar – Hayden Paddon
Junior – Hayden Paddon
Group N 4WD – Hayden Paddon
Rookie – Andre Meier
Kiwi-2 – Aaron Cook
Group N 2WD – Patrick Malley
Classic – Rob Wylie
Manufacturer - Mitsubishi
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