Murray takes NZ Championship lead
August 31, 2007, 8pm. Fram Subaru Impreza WRX STi driver Sam Murray has taken the points lead in the Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship after finishing third in today’s first leg in the Waikato.
The penultimate round of the 2007 series runs over two days as part of the WRC Rally of NZ.
Murray capitalised on woes that befell series leader Hayden Paddon and second-on-points Richard Mason to take a 12-point lead into tomorrow’s second leg.
Paddon dropped out in Special Stage 2 after his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 broke its gearbox; Mason lost almost three minutes when he and co-driver Sara Randall stopped to change a wheel after puncturing a tyre on their WRX seven kilometres from the end of SS4.
Mason said he had stopped to change the wheel to prevent doing damage to the car’s suspension or other systems.
The incident dropped him out of the NZ section lead and from 13th to 22nd overall.
Paddon has now dropped to fourth on points, two behind a dead-heating Mason and Dean Sumner (Evo 9).
Scotsman Alister McRae (Evo 9), making his second appearance in the NZ Series (he contested the opening round in Otago), won the NZ series heat today, by 65 seconds from Sumner.
Murray was third, 23 seconds further back.
Then came Mason, who recovered to win the Mystery Creek super special (his fourth stage win of the day), followed by Emma Gilmour (WRX) who said she felt better and was enjoying rallying again after being badly concussed in a huge crash in the Whangarei Rally earlier in the season.
Brett Martin (Evo 9) completed the top six.
Mark Tapper won the Ford Fiesta Challenge series section of the NZ championship section, from Chris Lange and Kayne Barrie.
Photo caption: Sam Murray leads the NZ Rally Championship after today’s action on Waikato roads.
Gronholm leads Rally NZ
Finn Marcus Gronholm takes a 13-second lead into tomorrow’s Leg 2 of the Rally of New Zealand on roads in the western Waikato.
The Ford Focus RS driver built a good lead in the morning when Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb made wrong tyres choices and battled for grip on roads made slippery by overnight rain.
Loeb made tyre and set-up changes at the Mystery Creek service break and won two of the three afternoon tests to nibble away at Gronholm’s lead.
Loeb said the changes had made the C4 WRC “a pleasure to drive and enable us to post two competitive times.”
Mikko Hirvonen is third in the second works Ford, ahead of Australian Chris Atkinson who is having an excellent run in the works Subaru Impreza WRC. He won the day’s final stage at Mystery Creek.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford) and Dani Sordo (Citroen) complete the top six.
Portuguese driver Armindo Araujo (Lancer) leads the production world rally championship class.
Gronholm said he had driven to his own pace during this afternoon’s stages.
The flu-affected Finn said he still didn’t feel 100 percent.
“I will push to the maximum tomorrow to try to take more time out of Loeb. The gap between us isn’t big enough yet, but I hope it will be by this time tomorrow.”
- Story by Mike Stock at Mystery Creek.