Double New Zealand Rally Champion Richard Mason and partner Sara Randall’s superb on-stage performances in 2006 have been recognised with three major awards.
Last week Richard was voted the ‘RALLY DRIVER OF THE YEAR’ at the inaugural New Zealand Automotive Awards ceremony held at the Sky City Convention Centre in Auckland.
The function was held in conjunction with the MICONZ [Motor Industry Convention of New Zealand] Conference and as part of the 25 year celebrations of Auto Trader Magazine. Over 300 people attended an evening where Richard’s was one of eleven Motorsport and Industry related awards presented.
MC for the evening as well as the conference, TV One’s Sports Presenter Geoff Bryan, introduced the evening by saying, “The judging panel…was chaired by Auto Trader editor Mike Stock…. He drew on his personal observations of drivers during the past year, and gathered together the opinions of other motorsport journalists and observers to make the final decisions.”
The Rally Driver of the Year Award was sponsored by Exide Batteries and as Geoff stated “recognises outstanding achievement in New Zealand rallying; and that the three finalists [Richard, Mark Tapper and Chris West] are three of the fastest rally drivers this country has produced.”
Once Grant Withers, the National Account Manager for Exide Batteries, had announced Richard as the winner, Geoff continued with the following citation: “Richard is the complete professional – well prepared, supremely confident and able to back his self-belief with stupendous pace on the special stages. Add to the mix co-driver and fiancée Sara Randall and you have a formidable, near unbeatable, combination. Mason says their in-car rapport is so good that Sara can pick exactly the right moment to call a pace note. He says the confidence that engenders is one of the keys to his speed. They have also shone against well-seasoned international opposition in the Chinese Rally Championship.”
Unfortunately Richard was unable to attend the evening, so Chris Grant deputised and commented “With it’s nationwide weekly circulation, Auto Trader has always been a key part of our drive to generate publicity for our Sponsors, and every Thursday following a rally, we are just like everyone else - keen to see what sort of coverage we have been able to generate. Because of its frequency of publication, our press releases are generally timed to catch their deadline – it’s all become quite automatic really – rally on the weekend, media release on Monday, see the results of it all published on Thursday. Let’s hope it continues for a long time to come.”
Richard said, “This is a great honour that was totally unexpected, but one that I am very proud to accept on behalf of Sara and the fantastic team who spend so much of their own time building cars that have consistently given us the chance to do so well. From Greg Horne at BNT, who was prepared to back us, even in the knowledge that our Chinese commitments meant we would only be able to do a limited programme here, to Dwight at Scottspeed Performance Engines, who now has to be the best in the business, so many folk have been such enthusiastic supporters that we really couldn’t help but succeed.”
Sara has just been awarded her third consecutive Massey University ‘Blue’ for outstanding sporting achievement in New Zealand national – and now international rallying.
The New Zealand Universities Blues Award is the highest sporting accolade given in the NZ tertiary system. It is part of a tradition dating from 1922 in New Zealand and earlier in England, where the colours of Oxford and Cambridge Universities came to be a symbol for sporting excellence.
Students nominated must excel in their chosen sport or cultural pursuit, as well as their academic studies. A huge commitment and discipline are required to be a Blues and Cultural Award recipient, as students must successfully juggle the often-weighty workloads of university study with heavy training and performance schedules.
This year 32 students representing 20 sports were presented Blues and another three received Cultural Awards for significant contributions to recreation and sport clubs.
Sara commented, “It was really neat to [again] be recognised by Massey, and great for our sport, especially when you see the Roll of Honour that includes Olympic and Commonwealth Games reps, All Blacks and the only other Motorsport person [the late] Dr Roger Freeth – another Driver-turned-Co-Driver.”
The other award the Richard Mason Motorsport Team received recently was a cheque for $10,000 from Subaru New Zealand – for the second year in a row – in recognition of winning the Parker-ENZED New Zealand Rally Championship [NZRC] for 2006.
Each year Subaru NZ makes this award to any NZRC competitor who wins a national rally title, and Richard is now the only driver to have done so for the past two years.
“Subaru in NZ are a cornerstone of the sport in this country, with their long time support of Rally New Zealand as their vehicle supplier, sponsoring rounds of the NZRC and the Rally Xtreme series both directly and through their dealership network, as well as backing other Subaru drivers. We are proud to represent the ‘Blue Team’ and very appreciative of their ongoing commitment to NZ rallying,” concluded Richard.