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With a Mitsubishi leading the 2007 Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship for the first time in three seasons, the battle resumes this weekend in the Wairarapa (June 2-3).
 
Based from the Solway Park Hotel in southern Masterton, the Trust House Racetech Rally Wairarapa covers 241km of competitive gravel in both the Tararua and Wairarapa regions – marking the mid point of the championship season.
 
Assigned the traditional Queen’s Birthday date the event has used in the past, it follows a traditional route to cover six gravel stages in the Pongaroa region on Saturday and eight north of Masterton on Sunday.
 
Having taken outright victory at the second round in Whangarei two weeks prior, Geraldine’s Hayden Paddon (Lancer EVO 8) currently leads the 2007 title chase by 14 points from Palmerston North’s Sam Murray (Impreza).  As the championship leader he starts as first car on the road for the weekend. Third in the standings and second car on the road, two-time champion and locally based Richard Mason (Impreza) has a 23 point deficit – with 64 points on offer over the two days.
 
“Being first on the road sure is going to be a small disadvantage for us. But we’re looking at it as a positive; it’s something we’re going to have to do in the future, so we might as well look at learning how to do it now.  Richard (Mason) has been doing well from it so we might as well try too,” said Paddon.
 
“The other good thing about being first on the road you get to make your own lines – which is good in a sense, you can hug the corners – which encourages me to drive to my notes not everyone else’s lines.”
 
The up-turning of the championship standings continue in the class fields – with term Kiwi-2 campaigner Dave Strong (Honda Civic) maximising his haul over defending champion Aaron Cook (Honda Jazz).
 
Leading the Fiesta Sporting Trophy and Group N 2WD class, Kayne Barrie has taken the command from Mark Tapper after a run of mechanical retirements at Whangarei.
 
It will also be the second round of the Classic Championship – with defending champion Bert Murray in the Mazda RX7 leading the Nissan 240RS of Rob Wylie.
 
Returning to the line-up following her car demolishing roll in the Waipu Caves region, Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour has a shiny new Subaru Impreza.  Thanks to the efforts of her former WRC based co-driver Glenn Macneall, the team have pulled together an equally competitive car package using an Australian built shell fitted with parts from her old car.
 
Neither Scotsman Alister McRae nor American Ken Block will be at the event.
 
“The opportune came around to sell the car – so it’s been sold.  So we’re looking for a new car and sponsorship to go with that.  We’re not hopeful for the rest of this season – so we’ve decided to sit on the fence and see what evolves out,” said Robbie Leicester – owner of the Alister McRae campaigned car.
 
A date clash with events in the US has Ken Block stateside for the next two rounds in the Kiwi series.
 
The Trust House Racetech Rally of Wairarapa starts at 8:40am on the Saturday in Pongaroa – returning to Masterton from 3:45pm.  The cars restart at 8:00am on the Sunday before the champagne finish from 3:30pm back at the Solway Park Hotel.
 
Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship – driver championship points after round two (of six)
 
Group N Drivers
Hayden Paddon (Mitsubishi) 102
Sam Murray (Subaru)  88
Richard Mason  (Subaru) 79
Stewart Taylor  (Mitsubishi) 61
Callum McInnes (Subaru) 57
Dylan Turner  (Mitsubishi) 57
Emma Gilmour  (Subaru) 56
Nathan Thomas (Mitsubishi) 55
Dean Sumner (Mitsubishi) 52
Alister McRae (Subaru) 36
Patrick Malley (Mitsubishi) 33
Chris West (Mitsubishi) 30
Kirsty Nelson  (Subaru) 29
Ken Block  (Subaru) 28
Brett Martin  (Mitsubishi) 13
 
Fiesta Sporting Trophy
Kayne Barrie     118
Mark Tapper      67
Chris Lange       52
Dermott Malley  40
 
Kiwi 2WD (Drivers)
Dave Strong (Honda Civic) 124
Andrew Keighley (Honda CRX)    92
Cheyne Booth (Suzuki Ignis) 80
Reg Cook (Nissan Pulsar) 78
Aaron Cook (Honda Jazz) 62
 
Classic
Bert Murray (Mazda RX7) 67
Rob Wylie (Nissan 240RS) 52
Euan Fuge (Mazda RX3) 51
Keith Frankum (Toyota AE86) 38
Deborah Kibble (Mitsubishi Lancer) 20
Mike Cameron (Mitsubishi Lancer) 18
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