After an uncharacteristically-bad first leg of the Whangarei Rally yesterday – he made wrong tyre compound choices and ultimately retired – championship leader Richard Mason will be out to put matters right in today’s second leg run on roads south of Whangarei.
May 13, 2007, 8.15am. Expect reigning New Zealand rally champion Richard Mason to turn in a blinder in his search for maximum points from today’s second leg of the Whangarei Rally, Round 2 of the 2007 Vantage Aluminium Joinery NZ Rally Championship.
The BNT Subaru Impreza WRX STi driver took no points from yesterday’s leg of the event run largely on the abrasive roads of lower Northland.
A wrong tyre compound choice saw him struggle for grip in the morning stages near Paparoa, and he ran an uncharacteristic fifth.
For the afternoon tests he went for a softer compound Silverstone and again got the choice wrong.
The tyres virtually melted down and he came out of the seventh stage on three badly-worn tyres and the right-front rim; the tyres on that wheel had completely gone. He’d driven like that for 10 kilometres.
Mason and co-driver Sara Randall changed the wheel and Mason made makeshift repairs to the right-front brake line which had been severed by running on the rim.
They set out for Whangarei and the final super special; but after running low on time were faced with having to maintain an 85km/h average speed.
Mason soon reached the decision that to press on would see the other already-deflating tyres delaminate and could cause major damage to the Impreza. He reluctantly decided to withdraw from the event, and start afresh this morning.
“I just haven’t had a fabulous day,” Mason said last night in a masterpiece of understatement. “Sometimes days aren’t so good.
“It’s been a while since we had a DNF (did not finish) in New Zealand. I chose the wrong tyres this afternoon – far too soft. Five out of the six (fitted during the afternoon) failed – not bad eh?”
After SS7 and for the run back to Whangarei he had one good tyre left. “The rest were falling to bits. Once I’d blocked off the brake line and we got going we needed to average 85km/h, and that would have included driving through (Whangarei) town.
“We’d probably have made it (in the time allowed) if we’d had good tyres, but at the end of the day there’s no possible way we could have done it with three flat tyres, so rather than destroy the car (trying to get to Whangarei and the super special) we withdrew.
“We didn’t decide to withdraw; we were forced to abandon the rally.
“Hopefully we can go well tomorrow (Sunday).
“This is a hard rally on tyres as far as Silverstone tyres are concerned. In the past it has given grief for Silverstones. Hopefully we can fix that up for tomorrow; I might make some good choices.
“(On Saturday) I went completely the wrong way with harder tyres in the morning when I should have opted for softer compound, and soft tyres in the afternoon when I should have gone for harder.
“What a mess-up that was.”
The battle for overall NZ Rally Championship honours for the Whangarei round will be fought out today between yesterday’s winner Hayden Paddon (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8) who finished second overall behind Asia-Pacific champion Cody Crocker, and Impreza WRX driver Sam Murray who was second in the NZ championship class.
The rally was due to restart about 8.30 this morning.
– Story by Mike Stock.
Photo caption: Richard Mason pictured in the Otago Rally where he scored a dominant victory. Mike Stock photo.
* Log back in during the day for updated stories, wireless network coverage in Northland permitting. An end-of-event wrap-up story will appear this evening.