Double New Zealand Rally Champion Richard Mason and partner Sara Randall are in absolute survival mode as the Rally of China - the final round of this year's FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship [APRC].
The rally enters it's last day at Longyou [400 kilometres from Shanghai] this afternoon (NZ Time).
NZ's top rally pairing are in 7th place overall - and 3rd in the China Rally Championship [CRC] field - in their GT Tires Rally Team Subaru Impreza in a war of attrition due to the atrocious weather conditions that have seen almost half the top twenty crews forced to retire during the first leg.
Torrential rain has seen the roads - some of which are scheduled to be used up to four times - turn into quagmires. In fact not one of the eleven stages run so far has been covered at an average speed of more than 70 kph, with most under 65kph.
"We have never seen so much mud and it's absolutely treacherous and so slippery," said Richard, "These roads make the drenched Saturday morning stages on Rally NZ last weekend feel like tarmac superhighways."
Richard and Sara are currently 43 seconds behind the Japanese Champion Kamada (Subaru) and a further minute adrift of British and USA Champion David Higgins (Mitsubishi), who is the leading CRC driver in third place overall. The Masterton Flyers are over three minutes in front of the eighth placed team, leading Chinese driver Caodong Liu who is also in a Subaru.
Higgins is three minutes behind rally leader and new APRC Champion, Australian Cody Crocker, who is benefiting greatly from running as first car through the stages, while the Kiwis started out as 16th 'on the road' under the APRC Start Order rules.
"We have been given instructions to keep it on the road as we are the only GT Tires Team members still going," said Sara. "The roads are atrocious & they [the organisers] had to shorten one stage yesterday. I don't think we'll be doing all the stages today either."
"So, basically, we're just holding on to the road & if the others fall off we'll make our way up the leaderboard. If not, we'll just try to finish."
Of the other three New Zealand crews only one, Palmerston North's Brian Green and Fleur Pedersen, are still going. They are 14th in their Mitsubishi 17 minutes behind Crocker.
The Hawkes Bay husband and wife team of Dermott and Linzi Malley retired their Mitsubishi midway through the first leg while Aucklander Mark Tapper & Jeff Judd (Christchurch) stopped in the second stage in their VW Golf. Both suffered mechanical problems.
There are six stages due to be run today before the Rally Finish from around 9pm tonight (NZ Time).