National Rally Championship points are the main priority for Richard Mason when he starts the World Championship Rally of New Zealand on Thursday evening in his Subaru Impreza WRX STI
Mason, from Masterton, has been given a priority entry and seeding amongst the international Production Car World Rally Championship drivers for the three days of competition in the Auckland-based event.
“The main focus has got to be the national series,” said Mason. “There are three sets of points available, so it’s the most important event of the season.
“You’ve got to be there to pick up the points and not worry about the international competition.”
But history has shown that Mason and the other top local drivers can mix it with the internationals as he has finished on the production car podium in the past.
“The national championship pace is usually pretty quick so I don’t think we will be too far away,” said Mason.
The former double champion said he would like to think his pace will be amongst the top half a dozen production car drivers on the event. “I’d like to think we’ll be pretty close to the sharp end of the class,” he said.
But the first two days of competition – in the Paparoa Maungaturoto area on Friday and the northern Waikato on Saturday – will see him concentrate on his Kiwi rivals.
“If we have a chance of a result against the internationals then maybe we will mix it with them on the last day’s stages down at Raglan,” said Mason.
Mason will start as car 40, while fellow Subaru driver Emma Gilmour, who is also seeded in amongst the international production class drivers has been numbered at 50.
Mason spent Monday doing some testing and development work on his car which he debuted at last month’s Otago Rally.
The event has a Ceremonial start at Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour on Thursday night, followed by three days of competition with the finish back at the Viaduct Harbour on Sunday afternoon.
A spectator stage is being held in the Auckland Domain on Friday evening.