Richard Mason, the current leader of the National Rally Championship wants to break his Whangarei Rally “duck” this weekend
For the last two years the event has not been kind to Masterton based Mason and his co-driving wife Sara in their Subaru Impreza WRX STI.
Last year they rolled the car and two years ago a series of problems kept them out of the front running.
“We haven’t put our best foot forward in the last couple of years up there,” said Mason. “Yet when the stages were used in the WRC event previously we had some good results.”
“I certainly like the roads and look forward to driving them every year.”
An added attraction this year is the use of the Batley stage near Maungaturoto, which has not been used since the WRC days. Other stages are being used in the opposite direction to usual.
“It’s going to be a new challenge,” said Mason, who will be running the Impreza WRX STI on the control FIA fuel as the event is also a round of the Asia Pacific series.
The yellow Subaru will be starting behind the top Asia Pacific drivers, a potential advantage if the roads remain dry over the weekend.
“Hopefully they’ll be sweeping the roads for me,” said Mason. However if it rains the advantage will shift to the drivers running first through the stages.
They include defending national champion Haydon Paddon from Geraldine and Emma Gilmour of Hamilton in the second of the two Motor Image team latest shape Impreza WRX STI hatches, who are both contesting the Asia Pacific series.
And Gilmour thinks the new car could be a quicker proposition on the fast sweeping back country roads south of Whangarei.
“Its grip and cornering speeds on the fourth and fifth gear corners is better than the older car I usually drive in the national series,” said Gilmour. “It sits on the road better and gives you more confidence.”
With Australian co-driver Rhiannon Smyth, Gilmour will be looking for podium places in both championships over the two days to continue the good start she has had to the season.
“We just want to do as good a job as we can,” said Gilmour, who is not targeting one series as more important than the other.
Her team-mate Cody Crocker, the defending Asia Pacific champion is the top seed, while Gilmour will start fifth and Mason is the eighth seed.