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Four times New Zealand Rally Champions Richard and Sara Mason suffered one of the cruellest blows in motorsport at this weekend’s GoPro Daybreaker Rally in the Manawatu as their BNT Subaru ground to a halt with a jammed gear lever just 4 kilometres short of the finish of the final stage.
 
It had been a totally dominant performance by the Masterton Flyers as they set the fastest time on each of the preceding 8 special stages and had built up a 1minute 48 second lead – exactly one second per kilometre of stage distance to that point.
 
Their near faultless performance therefore meant the rally win – and the lead in the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship [NZRC] - looked to be a mere formality with just the 8 km McBeth Power Stage left to complete.
 
But just like the Shakespearean Tragedy of the same name it was like a dagger through the heart as halfway through the stage, as they exited a 4th gear corner, Richard shifted into 5th, but instead found himself with the lever jammed in neutral. So the BNT Subaru coasted to a stop and despite Richard’s best efforts the lever was locked solid.
 
“UNBELIEVABLE….is the politest expression I can use here,” said a frustrated Richard. “Sure we were going for the Power Stage win, but still driving well within ourselves when this happens. 30 [NZRC] points and a record breaking 23 NZRC round win gone in a flash……”
 
“We were having such a great run, the car was working better than ever and we had no inclination or warning that anything like this was about to happen…..What can I say……”
 
With the unavailability of current championship leader Hayden Paddon for the next two rounds, the Masons were determined to make the most of his absence.
 
And success in Feilding carried even more significance for the Masons due to the new NZRC rules that have been introduced this year.
 
Prior to the start of the 6th and final round – the Trusthouse Racetech Rally Wairarapa in early October - all competitors must drop their worst points scoring round from the first five events.
 
“With what has happened this weekend at least we now don’t have to decide which round to drop from our points tally….” He quipped. 
                                                    
“So now it’s time to regroup and have another go at taking the lead by winning the Canterbury Rally in August, which would set up a grandstand finish at the final two rounds in September and October.”

Photo: Geoff Ridder

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