Richard Mason took the coveted first New Zealand finisher title in last weekend’s Rally of New Zealand, despite three days fraught with difficulties.
The never-say-die Mason overcame a time-sapping puncture on the BNT Subaru Impreza WRX STi on Friday, and then got stuck in second gear when a shaft broke in the gearbox about halfway through the final special stage on Saturday.
At the time, he had been leading the NZ championship field and was placed second in the production world rally championship (PWRC) section of the event.
Those mishaps dropped him to third overall in the NZ series, 25 points behind new points leader, fellow Subaru driver Sam Murray.
Between them is Hayden Paddon (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8) who is 20 points behind Murray.
Mason bounced back on Sunday to turn in a trademark brilliant performance in the Impreza, which now ran a standard gearbox in place of the dog box which is faster and allows clutchless shifts.
Having to use the clutch again, Mason often found himself literally wrong-footed.
Mason caught and passed fellow WRX driver Murray during Sunday’s special stages in the western Waikato, and opened a margin of 1m 17s by the rally’s end.
He had started the day 20 seconds behind Murray in the race to be first Kiwi.
Murray, who took the NZ championship lead on Friday and consolidated it on Saturday, finished second.
He had said on Saturday night that though he would like to be first NZ finisher, he would not risk wrecking his Subaru in a bid to do so – especially with the NZ championship-deciding Rally of Nelson only a few weeks away.
During his Sunday drive, Mason not only worked his way into the first Kiwi spot, but also climbed the PWRC leaderboard to finish third behind former production world champion Toshi Arai and Niall McShea, both driving Imprezas.
It was a convincing display of his talent and left plenty of observers wondering, what if he hadn’t had problems on Friday and Saturday?