The Masterton pairing of Richard and Sara Mason have taken victory in the opening round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship driven by VINZ.
The Masons were pushed all the way by a number of new challenges over the two days of the VINZ Rally Whangarei, held in dry, dusty and fast conditions in the north. Second for the weekend were the Canterbury brother and sister team of Matt and Nicole Summerfield, after a fast and consistent drive, and rounding out the podium in his first NZRC event was 19 year Te Aroha driver Lance Williams, with Crunch Bennett alongside.
The first round of the 2014 National rally title witnessed the emergence of a number of new challenges for the title. The Mason’s seized the initial advantage on Saturday mornings opening loop of stages to take an early lead, however close behind in second was young Tauranga driver David Holder with Malcolm Peden. Holder, who is being mentored by New Zealand World Rally Championship driver Hayden Paddon, was making his debut in an ex Paddon Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8, having graduated from the front wheel drive Fiesta class.
On Mason’s heels all day, Holder took the lead on special stage 6 when Mason was forced to slow with major tyre wear issues, but the fairytale result was not to be, when his Mitsubishi developed a fuel leak. Roadside repairs enabled Holder and Peden to get the car back to service in Whangarei, but without the opportunity to refuel before the two short spectator stages at Pohe Island, they cruelly ran out of fuel surrendering their lead.
With Holder’s challenge diminished Mason, reclaimed the lead and was able to maintain his position out front on Sunday’s shorter leg. Having never won the Whangarei event, he may have thought luck was again not on his side when brake issues slowed his progress on the morning loop of stages, yet repairs at the midday service, ensured the bright yellow BNT Subaru would take outright honours. Behind Mason, Subaru drivers Matt Summerfield and Lance Williams traded times all day, with both drivers securing their best ever NZRC results in second and third respectively. Williams in his first NZRC event is the leading rookie driver, after a very mature drive, in an event that proved difficult for many.
The dry conditions and fast pace at the front of the field lead to a high attrition rate amongst the leading NZRC teams. The list of casualties of leg one included Nelson’s Ben Hunt with engine trouble, Rotorua’s Sloan Cox and Palmerston North’s Brian Green, both with offroad excursions, Auckland driver Dylan Turner with steering issues and Tauranga driver Phil Campbell who had been running as high as third overall, succumbed to clutch issues with his Lancer Evo 9. Former National champion Chris West was plagued with power issues to his Evo X, and Emma Gilmour experienced a horrid run in her Suzuki Swift Maxi, with multiple punctures and a broken gear lever providing a challenging event.
With the overall round victory and bonus points for fastest time in the Power stage, the Mason’s take the initial points lead followed by Summerfield and Williams in the 2014 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship driven by VINZ. Sloan Cox recovered from his leg one disaster to take the leg two bonus points for fastest time over the day’s stages.
Hawkesbay driver Max Bayley another in his rookie NZRC secured maximum points in the Group N 2WD category, defending Open 2WD champion Hamish Anderson started his title defence with a class win, and Canterbury’s Marcus Van Klink the round winner for the BNT Historic’s in his potent Mazda RX7. The Gull Rally Challenge held over leg 1 only, saw Daniel Walker take the 4WD honours in his Mitsubishi, and Jeff Torkington the 2WD class in his Toyota MR2.
The Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship driven by VINZ, recommences in four weeks’ time at the Rally of Otago, followed by rounds in Canterbury, Wairarapa, Coromandel and Manawatu.