Luck stays with Sam Murray and he consolidates the NZ series lead he gained yesterday.
September 1, 2007, 8.30pm. You can get into championship leads by absolutely dominating, racking up a series of round wins.
Or you can get there by being just plain consistent, scoring points in every round and amassing a total that takes you into the series lead.
Sam Murray has just done the latter, moving into a solid lead in the Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship. Not that he wanted it that way; he’d rather be winning rallies.
The Fram Subaru Impreza WRX STi driver has been a consistent points-scorer all season, and after this weekend’s fifth round, run over the first two days of Rally New Zealand, he holds a 20-point lead over his nearest rival, Hayden Paddon (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8) with one round to run, at Nelson.
Defending champion Richard Mason (WRX) is now third, another five points back.
Murray took a 12-point lead into today’s second leg. He’d catapulted from third on points to the series lead yesterday after first Paddon dropped out with a broken gearbox, and then Mason lost several minutes changing a wheel that had a punctured tyre.
Today Mason was leading the NZ section of the rally when the Impreza got stuck in second gear half-way through the final test at Te Akau North.
That dropped him down the order, and he finished the leg sixth in the NZ championship section.
Murray took second-place points for today – the leg was won by Scotsman Alister McRae (Lancer Evo 9) who also won yesterday and took the overall round victory – and consolidated his newly-won series lead.
Combined with his second placing in Leg 1, that gave Murray second overall for the round, with Mason third.
Luck rode with Murray yesterday – he drove most of the day with a non-functioning right-front shock absorber – and luck stayed firmly perched on his shoulder this afternoon.
In the final test at Te Akau North he had turned up the wick, setting out to cut into the 10-second margin McRae had opened over him in the previous stage.
But after yesterday’s shock absorber problem Murray had been forced to run a different type of shock on the front axle to the ones on the back.
That caused an imbalance in the car, and he hadn’t been 100 percent comfortable to drive it fully committed.
As the tyres began to wear, the car lost rear-end grip and got “very, very taily.”
“We went into a three-right (medium-fast) corner, ran wide and hit the berm, went up on the outside real hard and bent the suspension arm.
‘Then we went down the road into a four-right which tightened into a three, and there was no way I was stopping (the car).
“We went around and up on to two wheels.”
The car spun and when he came to a stop, Murray had to back up.
“We sat there for a moment, and I thought ‘maybe that’s my luck for the day. I’ll get out of here and just drive to finish’.”
As it turned out, Mason had had his problem, which hurt his series points tally – he dropped 16 by falling from the NZ section lead to sixth – and boosted Murray’s tally.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen,” Murray said. “It was a shame for Richard.”
Murray said his aim this weekend had been “to come here and look after the championship and not go silly, and that’s what we’ve done.
“We did some reasonable (stage) times in a car that was not 100 percent.
“But it would be nice to win (a rally). There always seems to be something we are learning or fixing on the car.”
- story by Mike Stock. Photograph of Sam Murray by Euan Cameron.