Dunedin, April 15, 2007, 1.40pm. After diagnosing and rectifying a problem that blunted the speed of his BNT Subaru Impreza WRX STi this morning, New Zealand rally champion Richard Mason hasstarted a fightback to try to regain the lead in Leg 2 of the Rally of Otago, Round 1 of the 2007 NZ championship.
Mason lost the lead to Emma Gilmour (WRX) on this morning’s second special stage, Akatore 1, near Lake Waihola.
Gilmour won that stage and Mason was fourth. Till that point he’d won all eight of the rally’s gravel stages, albeit sharing victory on this morning’s opening test with Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 driver, Dean Sumner.
Mason pushed hard in SS11, the morning’s third stage and the day’s longest at 35.77km, but he beat Gilmour by only 5.5 seconds.
Mason was mystified. “I got to the end of the stage and thought: ‘I’ve done a good stage without being silly.’ And then I saw I was only (5.5) seconds quicker than Emma, and I couldn’t work it out,” he said at the Lake Waihola service park after SS12.
“And then I noticed that the water spray tank (for the intercooler) was full. And that’s what it was. The water sprayer was blocked and wasn’t working. That’s why the car had been a little bit flat all morning.”
So he got it working again and really got going, winning SS12, Akatore West by 11.6 seconds from Gilmour – almost a second a kilometre quicker than the then rally leader.
He had two stages in which to overhaul Gilmour.
Hayden Paddon (Evo 8) had moved into third after Alister McRae (WRX) dropped back with a centre diff problem, falling to eighth.
Sumner ran fourth, though he said he was unhappy with the lack of speed from his Evo 9, saying his Evo 8 had performed better. He thought the crew might have wound back the boost too much when they made repairs after the turbo blew on yesterday’s Leg 1.
Sam Murray, also unhappy, was fifth in his WRX, saying “this is one weekend I should have stayed home and watched television: but I don’t like television much either.”
The ebullient Dylan Turner ran seventh overall in his Evo 9, saying he had taken too long to get on the pace in the early stages.
Callum McInnes (WRX) was ninth, followed by Nathan Thomas who says he’s gradually getting used to the extra power his new Evo 7 develops.
Photo caption: seventh-placed Dylan Turner, pictured during Leg 1 by Euan Cameron.