Richard Mason and Hayden Paddon have run away from their opposition in the opening stages of the Otago Rally. Chris West looks to have the pace to challenge them but has been hampered by a time-consuming puncture on SS1.
Richard Mason has stamped his authority on the Otago Rally, winning the first two stages of the Southern Cross Hotel-sponsored event to take a lead of just under 13 seconds.
At the morning’s first service break at Lake Waihola, south of Dunedin, Mason (BNT Subaru Impreza WRX STi) leads the second round of the 2008 Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship by 12.7 seconds from Hayden Paddon’s green team Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9.
Mason and Paddon have been the only drivers in the hunt in this morning’s opening stages, and have walked away from the opposition.
Stewart Taylor runs third in his Evo 9, but is 61.1 seconds adrift of Mason.
Brett Martin is fourth in another Evo 9, ahead of similarly-mounted Dean Sumner and teenaged rising star Sloan Cox (Evo 8).
Then come WRX drivers, Emma Gilmour, Grant Barber and Andre Meier.
Former NZ champion Chris West is 10m in the Donnithorne Simms Lancer after picking up a puncture in Special Stage 1 and dropping more than three minutes ti Mason.
West fought back on SS2, placing third on the stage and if he can continue to maintain that pace without mishap should claw his way back into contention for a top five finish.
Mason has won both early morning stages, from Paddon. He opened an eight-second lead on SS1 and stretched it to 12.7s on SS2. Paddon was second on both stages.
West’s fightback took his to third-fastest on SS2, ahead of Martin, Taylor, Sumner, McInnes, Cox and Gilmour.
Dave Strong leads the Kiwi 2 two-wheel drive class in his Honda Civic Type-R, and is right among the slower four-wheel drive cars.
Reigning NZ champion Sam Murray was a non-starter, having withdrawn his WRX STi after it became clear the car couldn’t be prepared adequately after his crash in round one in the Wairarapa.