Scotsman Alister McRae has taken victory at the Rally New Zealand round of the 2007 Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship today.
Staving off a challenge from front running Richard Mason (Subaru Impreza), McRae’s consistency has awarded him 67 points in the penultimate round of the 2007 season.
Debuting a brand new Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9, McRae and co-driver Erin Kyle are the leading production specification car (Group N) category in the WRC Rally New Zealand event – 12th overall.
While not a contender for the overall New Zealand championship title, McRae had a faultless run over the two days:
“Aye, not too bad.  It wasn’t easy – even if I made it look that way.  Obviously with the fact we have a new car, new co-driver I tried to pick it up and it worked.”
Famous in world rallying, the McRae name has added significance in New Zealand being the only international driver to win a round of its domestic series.
“I’m Scottish, living in Australia and now I win here – what does that make me?” joked McRae.
Richard Mason and co-driver Sara Randall clean-swept five of the six stages run in the northern Waikato today – re-taking the leading Kiwi position at the international event.  Then, in the sixth test the gearbox of his Subaru Impreza locked in second gear – handing the leading Kiwi placing and championship contending run to Palmerston North’s Sam Murray.
Now with a 20 point lead in the series, Murray and co-driver Rob Ryan have their Impreza ahead of the Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9 of Hayden Paddon.  Although Murray had a major moment in the final test – doing significant damage to the rear suspension of his car:
“It was 10km from the end of the stage, and with different shocks in the car it lost all its balance.  We clipped someone’s driveway or something – bending the rear suspension.  I took it easy for a couple of corners then on a right hander that tightened it turned, spun up on the nose of the car and we pirouetted round backwards in the road,” said Murray.
Hayden Paddon with a standard gearbox fitted to his Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 8 finished third for the leg – ahead of the debuting Lancer EVO 9 of Chris West and Garry Cowan.
Leading two-wheel drive Mark Tapper again kept his Ford Fiesta in the middle of the road – finishing the day in 32nd position overall.
Of the New Zealand championship cars, first retirement for the day was leading Kiwi Dean Sumner – when his Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9 ran out of fuel having covered 60km of competition gravel.  The only other retirement was Tauranga’s Callum McInnes.  Hitting a bank in the morning McInnes had further bad luck in the afternoon when his Subaru Impreza left the road.
With only two of the three days counting toward the New Zealand championship, most of the championship field will return for Sunday – the title of ‘first Kiwi’ still to be secured.
Running in a separate event behind the World Rally Championship field, the Kiwi-2 category covered the same six stages of the day.  Quick in the opening test, championship leader Dave Strong (Honda Civic) was later overhauled by defending champion Aaron Cook (Honda Jazz) to take the lead followed by the experienced Reg Cook (Nissan Pulsar).  Cheyne Booth retired his Suzuki Ignis from the third test.
Needing to finish, Strong has enough of a points lead to take the 2007 Kiwi-2 drivers title with a round to spare.
“Wasn’t as easy as I expected today – plenty of problems and I made a few mistakes.  Miscalculated on the tyres – I ran out.  I should have had harder ones – I just wore them out.”
“I knew I had to get third or fourth so I guess in the back of your mind that’s what you do – not my best effort but now I can go to the final round at Nelson and have a bit of a lash,” he said.
The season finale of the 2007 Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship will be held at Rally Nelson (30 September).
Spokesman for Vantage Aluminium Joinery, Craig Vincent expressed his view on the season:
“I’m really happy personally with how the championship is going.  The Motorsport Company is doing a great job with a professional effort, that can been seen by the competitors who have also raised their game – which is fantastic for us.  Having been in Australia and looking back at here this championship is way better – a better show.”
Results: provisional
2007 Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship (top six)
Leg two, round five
1 A McRae/E Kyle (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) 1hr26m30.1
2 S Murray/R Ryan (Subaru Impreza WRX STI) 1hr27m03.7
3 H Paddon/J Kennard (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo8) 1hr27m10.9
4 C West/G Cowan (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) 1hr27m11.6
5 S Taylor/W Searle (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) 1hr27m16.4
6 R Mason/S Randall (Subaru Impreza WRX STI) 1hr27m17.2
Combined overall (top six)
1 A McRae/E Kyle (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) 3hr1m49.7s;
2 S Murray/R Ryan (Subaru Impreza WRX STI) 3hr03m51.7;
3 R Mason/S Randall (Subaru Impreza WRX STI) 3hr04m14.4;
4 C West/G Cowan (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) 3hr05m25.0
5 B Martin/G Marra (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) 3hr05m26.1
6 P Malley/R Bennett (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) 3hr08m47.0
Overall driver Goldstar Championship points (after round five of six)
1 S Murray 207
2 H Paddon 187
3 R Mason 183
4 D Sumner 166
Group N 2WD
1 K Barrie 241
2 M Tapper 236
3 D Malley 196
4 C Lange 188
1 D Strong 239
2 Andrew Keighley 188
3 Reg Cook 171
4 Aaron Cook 164
5 Cheyne Booth 118
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