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By completing such a comprehensive start to finish victory at last week’s WRC Brother Rally New Zealand, Triple New Zealand Rally Champion Co-driver, Sara Mason, has become the most successful female competitor in the history of New Zealand motorsport.
 
The 26 year old - wife, mother and co-owner/operator of Tom's Auto Services in Masterton - has now won the Gold Star for Rally Co-drivers three times - in 2007, 2011 and now in 2012 - and this time with a round to spare.
 
Sara has navigated her husband Richard to 19 of his record equalling 22 New Zealand Rally Championship [NZRC] round wins, and in so doing the Masterton Flyers hold the record as the most successful crew in the 37 year history of the NZRC.
 
The pair first got together in a rally car early in 2005 when Richard talked Sara into co-driving for him at the Gisborne Rally - which they won - and the rest, as they say, is history - and in the Masons' case: History Making.

Richard went on to win that year's national championship - unfortunately Sara missed out on the Co-driver's title because her university exams clashed with the International Rally of Rotorua.
 
"Right from that first outing at Gisborne, Sara has done an awesome job every time in every aspect of what a driver needs from his co-driver," said Richard, "whether it be pre-event planning, navigation, time keeping and most obviously, the pace note calling. Sara seems to have an uncanny ability to know exactly the right second to make the next 'call', which is absolutely vital if I am to set the car up to get the best out of it as we power through the stages."
 
They both claimed championships in 2006 and in the 7 years since 2005, have always finished on the NZRC podium, recording a total of 3 x 1sts, 2 x 2nds and 2 x 3rds.
 
Ironically, they are currently enjoying one of their best runs of form, having won the latest three rounds of the NZRC. So much so that Richard needs just 5 points - of a possible 42 on offer - from the final round at Gisborne at the end of August - to become national champion for a record-equalling fourth time.
 
"As we said before Rally NZ, the BNT STI is now set up just right for my style of driving and is a real joy to drive. Actually, it's probably just as well with what we had to contend with up there last week [at Rally NZ]," continued Richard.
 
When the clutch release bearing broke in the early part of Whaanga Coast [Stage 2] on the Friday morning, the Masons were forced into damage control mode for the next two days, as they had to start each stage by using the ignition key and 'bunny hopping' off each start line, something which cost them more than a minute over the 13 stages involved.
 
"It really was incredibly nerve-wracking," said Sara. "Every stage could have been our last. We had to make sure we didn't spin, as we would have had big problems trying to use reverse gear. And the extra load and strain on the starter motor, gearbox and other key componentry was always on our minds."
 
The Masons were forced to drive 1,100 kilometres with no clutch before their brilliant BNT Mason Motorsport Team were able to replace the clutch on Saturday night at the end of Leg Two - in just 22 minutes...
 
As Sara posted on her facebook page late on Saturday night: "What an Awesome Crew we have!! We now have a clutch to be used wisely - thank you Dwight, Eden, Smithy, Spike, Tom, Adrian, Denny. 22mins gearbox out and then back in... Well Done :) :)"
 
"We were amazed that even though we were losing anything from 5 to 10 seconds per stage at the starts, we still managed to win 18 of the 22 tests, win all three [NZRC] days, the [NZRC] round and our Group N class by over 4 minutes," said Richard. "And to beat the PWRC [Production World Rally Championship] field by nearly 15 minutes was unbelievable.
“We had three goals for Brother Rally New Zealand. Firstly, we obviously wanted to extend our lead in the championship. Secondly, we wanted to win our class. And finally, we wanted to again earn the honour of winning the Woolf-Whittaker trophy awarded to the first New Zealanders home.

"We’ve been first Kiwi twice before [2006 & 2007], but knew it would be a tall order this time with Hayden [Paddon] in much more sophisticated machinery.

“But Rallying is full of attrition – things can happen to anyone – as we’ve seen with most of our championship opposition. So we kept the pressure on as much as our circumstances allowed, and we very nearly had him when he made a mistake on the final afternoon.

"So I guess we will look back on this, our fifth WRC Rally NZ together, as a real challenge and, ultimately, one of our better results where 'Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad'...."

The final round of this year's Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, powered by Brother [NZRC], is Rally Gisborne, over the weekend of August 25th - 26th.

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