Masterton husband and wife pairing Richard and Sara Mason have won the weekend’s Rally Hawke’s Bay, securing the Subaru team’s third New Zealand rally championship title
The final event of five in the 2011 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) over roads in central and northern Hawke’s Bay came as a 223km sting in the tail for title aspirants.
Today’s seven special stages covering 135.63km of roads north of Napier looked to favour overnight leader Dean Sumner when he started to stretch his leading margin. But in the third test a puncture in the ITM Mitsubishi dropped the Rotorua driver from overall contention. That let Mason in to the lead, despite having incurred damage when he clipped a post in the BNT Subaru. With a two minute advantage mid-way through the day, Mason finished the final stage 1 minute 32.8 seconds ahead of Havelock North’s Stewart Taylor with Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour third, a further 48.3 seconds back. Sumner clawed back to fourth for the rally with Feilding’s Geof Argyle fifth and Auckland’s Glenn Inkster sixth.
The win also put a seal on Mason’s overall New Zealand Gold Star rally championship title, finishing on 533 points, 111 ahead of runner-up Gilmour. Geraldine’s Hayden Paddon finished third for the season on 384 points, despite not contesting the final round.
A relieved Mason said today’s improved weather was a great way to finish a tough season after winning his now third overall title.
“The whole weekend was definitely about winning the championship. The hardest thing was going at a pace that was safe. A couple of times I found myself going a bit slow and the driving didn’t flow – we had to speed up to make it work properly,” said Mason, who only won one of today’s special stages in the BNT Subaru STI.
“We’ve had our focus purely on the championship the whole year and to achieve the goal you’ve set is really fantastic – we’re over the moon about it. BNT have been very supportive and it’s great to reward their years of support with a championship victory. Everybody else had their own problems and we just had to keep it sensible the whole rally. It proved to be the right way to go about it.”
Mason won his first Gold Star rally championship title in 2005, with a second victory in 2006.
Winning today’s final stage was a bitter-sweet for Gilmour, whose Vantage Subaru STI suffered fuel pump failure early in the day. Dropping from her overnight third placed standing, attrition allowed her to climb back on to both the event and championship podium at Napier’s Clive Square this afternoon.
“It was a bit of a frustrating weekend really. The car gave us grief from the third stage onward but we ended up with a very good result considering how bad it was looking this morning when the car wouldn’t start. While we had a mathematical chance of winning the championship we always knew having a good clean run and winning the rally could have turned it in to reality,” said Gilmour.
In the battle for two-wheel-drive honours, Nelson’s Ben Hunt reversed the overnight advantage held by Kaipoi’s Marcus van Klink. Hunt brought his Ford Fiesta ST home ahead of the historic category Mazda RX7 to secure both the 2WD championship and junior rally championship titles.
“We wanted to come here to finish and win the 2WD and junior championship but in the back of our minds we wanted to win the event 2WD honours as well. We wanted to finish on a high and that’s what we’ve done – it’s fantastic,” said the Nelson mechanic.
Crawling to the finish in 29th position overall was enough for Birkenhead’s Rob Wylie to secure his second overall title in the historic class. Driving the former championship winning Tony Teesdale Nissan 240RS, just finishing was critical to Wylie’s chances at putting enough points between him and runner-up Gary Smith from Hamilton.
Other category winners include Geof Argyle, who took the open-class 4WD title unopposed while New Plymouth’s Neil Marshall won the rookie honours. Subaru affirmed their supremacy in the manufacturer standings, finishing on 525 points, 178 ahead of rival Mitsubishi and 319 ahead of Ford.
Championship placings will be ratified following technical clearance of the cars after the ceremonial finish at Napier’s Clive Square. The formal title presentations will be made at the MotorSport New Zealand awards dinner in May 2012.
Results: 2011 Tomoana Warehousing Rally Hawke’s Bay overall – top-ten (provisional)
1, 1, Richard Mason/Sara Mason, Masterton, Subaru STI, 2:14:43.9
2, 25, Stewart Taylor/Warwick Searle, Havelock North, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X, +1:32.8
3, 3, Emma Gilmour/Glenn Macneall, Subaru STI, Dunedin, +2:21.1
4, 4, Dean Sumner/Paul Fallon, Rotorua, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX, +2:57.4
5, 26, Geof Argyle/Joelle Eyre, Feilding, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VIII, +3:01.6
6, 7, Glenn Inkster/Glenn Goldring, Howick, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX, +3:18.5
7, 10, Matt Jansen/Jason Farmer, Christchurch, Subaru STI, +4:30.8
8, 28, Grant Blackberry/Malcolm Peden, Hastings, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO V, +8:30.4
9, 12, Brian Green/Fleur Pedersen, Palmerston North, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X, +10:24.3
10, 27, Kingsley Jones/Len Fisher, Auckland, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VIII, +10:26.7