Richard Mason and Emma Gilmour are looking to get their national rally championship campaigns “back on track” this weekend after neither Subaru driver had a happy time in Whangarei three weeks ago.

Gilmour will debut a new Impreza WRX STI 2006 model that her team has built in little more than a fortnight after her 2003 model Impreza was written off in the biggest crash of her career. Mason has repaired the damage from an off road excursion which restricted him to ninth place at Whangarei.

At the moment the defending national champion lies third in the series, 23 points behind leader Haydon Paddon.

“We’ve got to come away with good points this weekend,” Mason said, who will be in the somewhat unusual position of not being seeded first for his home event. In a change to the rules from last season, the current points leader in the championship – in this case Geraldine’s Paddon – will start first on the road. Not that Mason is upset.

“It’s been pretty dry, so Haydon can sweep some of the gravel aside in front of us.”

If the conditions continue through until the weekend, Mason believes those drivers seeded from fifth to seventh – Dean Sumner, Brett Martin and Dylan Turner – could get the best of the road conditions.

Gilmour has more modest goals for Wairarapa after suffering concussion in the Whangarei accident.

“We’ll be using the Saturday stages as a test day and getting used to the new car,” she said.

With the change to a new car has come a change of transmission specification and a different torque split for the All Wheel Drive system.

“I’m looking forward to getting out there again,” she added. “The support we’ve had since the crash has been amazing. We all know rallying is a team sport, but I never knew I had such a big team behind me. It’s quite humbling.”

The one Subaru driver to come away from Whangarei with a good result was Sam Murray and he is planning on building on that success. The third seed behind Paddon and Mason, Murray enjoys the tighter, winding roads of the Masterton based event, particularly the first day’s stages in the Pongaroa area. He starts the two-day event 14 points behind Paddon.

“Whangarei suited the Mitsubishis more, but this weekend is definitely Subaru territory,” Murray said. “I enjoy the twisty stages.”

The Rally of Wairarapa marks the half-way point in the championship and with it the need by any driver to come away with a good result to enhance their series position before the fourth round is held in the Hawkes Bay at the end of July.

With the topsy turvey results at Whangarei, the Subaru and Mitsubishi camps both head to Masterton tied on 102 points in the manufacturer’s championship.  

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