Richard Mason was running a comfortable second in last Saturday’s Taranaki Tarmac Rally when his BNT Subaru Impreza stopped mid-way through Special Stage 5 with broken axles.
Earlier Mason had been running nine seconds behind eventual winner Glenn Inkster (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6.5), who had led the event from SS1.
By the time the car stopped, Mason had slipped to third place, and was one minute 14 seconds behind Inkster.
The first hint of trouble had come in Special Stage 3, Pitone Road 2.
“It was actually about halfway through Stage 3 that I felt the car get real ‘twitchy’,” Mason said. “And I initially thought we had a puncture. We pressed on at a reduced pace and I was staggered to find that we had ‘cruised’ for the last 13km and still came away with the second fastest time and were still second overall.”
Mason said all the tyres were fine.
“So it had to be a drivetrain problem and once we got back to service we found it was a part in the front axles that had let go.
“None of us can remember that particular piece ever breaking before, so no-one had a replacement which meant we were going to have to run the rest of the day with only rear-wheel drive.”
Worse was to come.
A serious lack of brakes, resulting in a drop to third overall after Stage 4, turned into retirement in Stage 5 as the BNT Subaru flew over a crest but the heavy landing led to a rear axle snapping and the Imreza ground to a halt.
“It was a real shame, because we were having a great time, thoroughly enjoying ourselves and the car was going really well,” Mason said.
“But when you break a front and a rear axle at the same time you go nowhere once you get to an uphill section – so unfortunately that was that.
“However, as always, you have to take the positives out of every situation and we’ve certainly learned an awful lot in the last month about car set-up and driving competitively on tarmac.
“All this will stand us in good stead for our future outings on the ‘black stuff’. In fact, we might even take a look at doing the Dunlop Targa in the future.”