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New Zealand’s Vantage Aluminium Joinery Rally Championship heads for a three-way showdown at next weekend’s Rally of Nelson (30th September 2007).
The final event in the six round season decides a number of championship categories – including the overall Goldstar title.
Heading the field by twenty points, Palmerston North’s Sam Murray and co-driver Rob Ryan (Subaru Impreza) need to finish inside the top-six to claim the title outright.  However, as Murray experienced in 2005 – it only takes a stray branch in the road verge to sideline six months worth of effort and erase any championship chances.
Second and having twice led the 2007 series, Geraldine’s Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 8) need to finish third or better before their slender four-point margin can be overtaken.
Third placed, double defending champion Richard Mason and co-driver Sara Randall (Subaru Impreza) are within a long-shot grasp of a triple victory.  While winning outright would assist their chances, both Murray and Paddon would need to be tail-enders if the Masterton pairing can achieve their season goal.
“It’s never over until it’s over and we’ve learned that with rallying.  We’ll be going to Nelson to do our very best – you don’t know what’s round the next corner.  If Sam (Murray) has a trouble free run then so be it.  If he has trouble we’ll be right there waiting,” said Mason.
Starting second on the road behind the current championship leader, Mason says it could be an advantageous position to race from:
“From our point-of-view; at Nelson there can be a lot of big rocks on the road so at least we don’t have to sweep them out of the way – and we get to keep an eye on what Sam’s doing.”
Matching the hard and fast chase for outright title honours, the forestry based roads used for the Nelson event are reportedly in ‘rock-hard’ form.  Weather over the past two months has been kind to the road base – although punctures will be as much of a factor as ever.
With a total of 13 top category awards up for grabs, only eight remain to settle.  Along with the Goldstar driver and co-driver title, is the Group N 4WD, Group N 2WD and Classic driver/co-driver awards.
Leading the Group N 2WD category, Kayne Barrie (Ford Fiesta) has a real battle on his hands.  With a five point lead in the standings he will be pressured to keep the hot-paced Mark Tapper behind him for the nine stage rally.
While Mazda dominates the Classic category, it’s the championship debuting Euan Fuge and co-driver Mike Gibbs (RX3) who take a nine point lead to the showdown.
With a maximum 35 points up for grabs in each category, the nine-stage one-day event covers familiar forestry roads to the south of Nelson.
Starting from 7:30am in Wakefield on the Sunday, the season concludes with a presentation finish from 5pm at Nelson’s WOW complex.
2007 Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship (top six)
Overall driver Goldstar Championship points (after round five of six)
1 Sam Murray 207
2 Hayden Paddon 187
3 Richard Mason 183
4 Dean Sumner 166
Group N 2WD
1 Kayne Barrie 241
2 Mark Tapper 236
3 Dermott Malley 196
4 Chris Lange 188
1 Dave Strong 239
2 Andrew Keighley 188
3 Reg Cook 171
4 Aaron Cook 164
5 Cheyne Booth 118
1. Euan Fuge - 140
2. Bert Murray - 131
3. Rob Wylie - 104
4. Keith Frankum - 96
5. Deborah Kibble - 87
6. Mike Cameron - 34
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