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Richard and Sara Mason comfortably won the Rally of Otago today to extend their overall lead in the Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship.
The second of six rounds in the country-covering series, the husband and wife pairing extended their opening day win by clean-sweeping today’s six tests through central Otago in their Subaru Impreza.
Through bitterly cold conditions the pair finished over a minute ahead of Geraldine driver Hayden Paddon (Mitsubishi), who was a minute ahead of Hastings based Stewart Taylor in a second Lancer EVO 9.
“The aim was to be consistent,” said a jubilant Mason, now 29 points ahead in the championship.  “It’s ideal – to win each stage – you can’t do much better than that.  We didn’t feel like we were over exerting ourselves or driving silly.”

Mason’s clean driving wasn’t without incident when he conceded an altercation with a large rock had him questioning his luck:  “We had to make a choice – take it on the wheel and lose the suspension or take it on the sump guard,” as Mason explained lining up a large rock in the middle of a corner cut during the opening stage of the day.
“It seems there isn’t a lot of time to think about things, but it’s what goes through your head in a split-second.  I thought if I ran over it with the sumpguard it could go either way – we might get lucky and continue or we could lose oil pressure.  So I had a very close eye on the oil and had my nose out smelling for any funny smells.  But the sumpguard held true and protected the engine like it was supposed to.”
Second of the 22-strong championship field that made it to the Octagon based finish in central Dunedin, Paddon said the top-of-country third round would hopefully turn the tide on his point deficit: “I feel like I’ve stepped up my pace; Richard is obviously going quicker as well, but I think Whangarei suits my driving style and the Michelin (tyres) work well up there.  So onwards and upwards – take another step up and try challenge Richard.”
With a myriad of minor issues befalling much of the pace exerted by the competition, juniors Sloan Cox (Mitsubishi), Andre Meier (Subaru) and Kirsty Nelson (Subaru) again made a clean and spirited mark on the standings to impress spectators.  Sixteen year old Cox finished eighth, 19-year old Meier in ninth and 18-year old Nelson tenth for the second day.
The title of leading two-wheel drive went to Palmerston North’s Bert Murray in the Group B classic Mazda RX7.  Contesting the Classic category of the championship, the points from the weekend move the former champion to second – 14 points behind the Nissan 240RS of Rob Wylie.

Run as a separate event behind the main championship field, Murray also finished third in the Dunlop International Classic rally.

“The championship always is foremost in our mind when you come to this event (the International Classic).  You want to do well against the top guys like Pasi (Hagstrom), Michele Mouton – but you have to remember that you have to get 32 points each day,” commented Murray.
Second two-wheel drive, the Honda of Wellington’s Aaron Cook came out ahead of Reg Cook’s Nissan Micra to now lead the Kiwi-2 standings.
“It was great to win the day and weekend overall; it’s great for our championship to now have the lead back.  We seem to have a fairly steady run down here and always get to the end,” said Cook.
Having led the opening day, defending champion Dave Strong (Honda Civic) succumbed to driveshaft failure in the third test to now place second in the standings.
Moving from the deep-freeze of Otago, the competitors prepare for the first international round of the series - the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship event: NAC Insurance Hella International Rally of Whangarei (7-8 June 2008).
Rally of Otago (Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship)
– Sunday (top-10) *provisional
1: R Mason/ S Mason – Subaru 1hr14m46.1
2: H Paddon/J Kennard – Mitsubishi +1m12.2
3: S Taylor/W Searle – Mitsubishi +2m17.2
4: B Martin/G Marra – Mitsubishi +3m12.6
5: C West/G Cowan – Mitsubishi +3m33.0
6: C McInnes/D Calder – Subaru +4m20.7
7: D Sumner/P Fallon – Mitsubishi +5m08.5
8: S Cox/T Cox – Mitsubishi +5m51.2
9: A Meier/J Farmer – Subaru +7m36.4
10 K Nelson/M Brunt – Subaru +7m58.7
Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship
- driver points (after round two of six) - top-ten:

Goldstar overall driver title
1: R Mason (Masterton) 129
2: H Paddon (Geraldine) 100
3: S Taylor (Hastings) 95
4: C West (Christchur) 76
5: B Martin (Masterton) 67
6: C McInnes (Tauranga) 57
7: S Cox (Rotorua) 51
8: A Meier (Cambridge) 47
9: G Barber (Foxton) 45
10= K Nelson (Northland) 41
= M Tapper (Auckland) 41


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