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By finishing second, four times New Zealand Rally Champions Richard and Sara Mason equalled their best result since Whangarei began hosting a round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship [NZRC] in 2006.

With both the Masterton Flyers having a dose of the flu, the podium finish was hard earned as two very different ‘wheel’ problems threatened to leave them stranded mid-stage on two separate occasions.

On Day One they had set the second fastest time on each of the first six special stages when the left front wheel bearing collapsed and Richard and Sara were forced to nurse their wounded BNT Subaru through the final two tests and back to Whangarei.

They managed to do that, at a cost of only two minutes and one place to end the day in 3rd.

Day 2 on Sunday turned out to be very similar to day 1, as a great start saw the BNT Subaru hot on the heels of leader Hayden Paddon after the 4 morning stages.

However in the middle of Stage 13 – Waipu Gorge – the steering wheel virtually came off in Richard’s hands and, after a brief stop to make running repairs, the BNT Subaru limped out of the stage, but with any chance of a fight for the Leg win gone.
“We really have experienced the highs and lows of motorsport yet again at Whangarei,” said a rather croaky Richard. “We were a  bit off the pace for the first couple of stages on Saturday while we worked on the handling with all the changes we have made to the car, but then we were right on Hayden’s pace for the next 4 stages until the wheel bearing collapsed.”
“And it was heading the same way on Sunday as we also beat the previous stage records during the morning, but when we got to the mid-Leg Service, we spent ages trying to work out why the steering seemed to be bent……

“The last thing we thought was that the steering wheel could be the culprit, but it appears that during the last morning stage it had ‘jumped’ on the splines so was ‘off centre.’

“The steering still didn’t feel right as we drove back out to Waipu Gorge. We had to start the stage on time to avoid incurring lateness penalties so away we went until, without any warning, the steering wheel came off in my hands…”

More roadside repairs before the next stage jury-rigged the wheel enough for the BNT Subaru to come home strongly with three more 2nd place stage times, including narrowly missing a win on the Power Stage by just 2.78 seconds over 26 kms – almost 50 seconds faster than the next quickest car.

“Overall we are very heartened with our pace and form this weekend. It’s a big step up from [the previous round] Otago, and the really exciting thing is that we know we can improve the handling even more and that there is still more good speed to come.”

“Sincere Thanks to all our BNT Mason Motorsport Team who all did an awesome job this weekend, and we are now looking forward to the Motorsport New Zealand Annual Awards next weekend in Wellington, where we will receive our Gold Stars for our 2012 NZRC success.”

The next round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship is six weeks away at the end of June – the one day GoPro Daybreaker Rally based in Feilding in the Manawatu.

Photo Geoff Ridder

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