Richard and Sara Mason have taken the opening round lead in the 2008 Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship.
Wrapping up the first of six rounds in the winter set competition, today’s eight stages in the Trusthouse Racetech Rally Wairarapa were through open countryside north of the host township.
In continuing sunny mild autumn conditions, the Mason Subaru team powered to an un-contested lead in this morning’s first test, winning the majority of the stages during the day.
“The stages today were more open, you can use more grass and if you are a bit wide it doesn’t really matter, whereas yesterday was really technical – there was no room for error,” described the former champion.
“Just in general we like these conditions; I find that the roads are interesting to drive and suit my style.”
Ending up second for the event, Hawke’s Bay driver Stewart Taylor said he struggled with a higher running order for the day’s test:

“Really tough,” he described.  “I’m not very good on that loose stuff and had a little crash on the first stage – damaging the intercooler.  The car lost power with a boost leak and I just can’t keep up the same pace on the loose stuff up the front (of the field).”
Not intending to enter the second round at Otago, Taylor says the weekend result has forced his hand: “It looks like I’m going to have to put an entry in.  It will be tough, I haven’t got much experience down there – those crests are hard.”
Void of the attrition that dogged the opening day of the championship, today only claimed a further two competitors.

Leading classic driver Bert Murray (Mazda RX7) was forced in to retirement almost in sight of the service area with driveshaft failure.  Yesterday’s early event leader Nathan Thomas succumbed to accident damage in the second test of the day.
Behind championship leading Mason, a volley of Mitsubishi’s fought for supremacy.  Fellow Masterton driver Brett Martin took an early stage win – commenting that changes to the drive differentials made substantial improvements to the car’s traction.
Also in the pack, south Canterbury’s Hayden Paddon won the final stage, Auckland’s Chris West and Mark Tapper swapped stage times to within fractions of a second.
Coming out on top in the two-wheel drive category, Wellington’s Aaron Cook (Honda Jazz) took the overall lead from defending champion Dave Strong (Honda Civic) after finishing ahead on bonus points.  Fiesta driver Patrick Malley finished third two-wheel drive and leads the Group N two-wheel drive standings after completing both days.
Consistent performance from Auckland’s Rob Wylie elevated the Nissan 240RS pilot to the lead of the classic class while Australia’s Greg Poole reaped similar benefits in his Escort BDA for second.  Defending champion Euan Fuge (Feilding) in the rear-wheel drive Mazda RX3 swept through for the day’s honours.
With the Wairarapa drought still in effect, the Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally will head to the South Island for the second round in mid-May (Rally Otago: 11-12 May).
*Results after day two (top-ten): Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship round one – Trusthouse Racetech Rally Wairarapa.
R Mason (Masterton) – Subaru
H Paddon (South Canterbury) – Mitsubishi +28.4s
B Martin (Masterton) – Mitsubishi +51.2s
C West (Auckland) – Mitsubishi +1m21.1s
M Tapper (Auckland) – Mitsubishi +1m21.6s
C McInnes (Tauranga) – Subaru +1m37.1s
S Taylor (Hawkes Bay) – Mitsubishi +1m39.7s
E Gilmour (Dunedin) - Subaru +2m51.4s
S Cox (Rotorua) – Mitsubishi +2m51.7s
G Barber (Foxton) – Subaru +2m52.5s

*Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship - points: round one
1. Mason 62
2. S Taylor 48
3. H Paddon 44
4. M Tapper 41
5 C West 40
*Results provisional pending technical clearance and hearings.

Photos: Euan Cameron

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