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Result: Mighty Mason scores victory in Hella Rally of Rotorua
New Zealand’s leading driver Richard Mason drove brilliantly on the final afternoon to claim the Hella International Rally of Rotorua today. The Masterton driver overcame a 13 second deficit on overnight leader Cody Crocker of Australia to claim the overall honours in the rally that doubled as the third round of the Asia Pacific and second round of the Parker Enzed New Zealand championships.
In a two-horse race, Mason reduced his deficit to 11 seconds after three stages east of Rotorua today, before producing a devastating second pass through the 19km Pinnacles stage nearly 18 seconds faster than the three-times Australian champion. The current New Zealand Rally champion then held firm to win his first international rally honours.
“It went better than I expected. The approach was to try hard but not dangerously hard,” Mason said. “It was strange to go from attacking to defending."
“I am very happy to win against Crocker. He is one of the best drivers in the world, up with the Europeans. I think it was a big home advantage for me. The reason we are quicker than the other New Zealand drivers is that we do our own pace notes. That means we can be more committed and go faster.”
The Kiwi finished 8.9 seconds ahead of Crocker with another New Zealander Sam Murray (Palmerston North) claiming the best result of his career in third. With first round NZRC winner Chris West forced out with mechanical problems, Mason now takes a sizeable lead in the New Zealand championship. He has 123 points to be 26 points clear of Murray with Todd Bawden on 23 and first round winner West down in sixth place. Crocker was content with his second placing overall as he won the Asia Pacific honours and now claims the provisional lead in that championship on 32 points from Malaysia’s Rifat Sungkar.
“I was surprised by Richard Mason pulling it out of the hat,” Crocker said. “I had a few moments with braking today. Overall though the Motu stage was an amazing experience – it was tight and twisty while the rain made it tough. We had 50 pages of notes for the Motu stage alone. It was the longest and most challenging stage I’ve done in a long time.
“It is a very different rally that in Australia. This has lots more corners and is much harder on the body, and harder to keep the concentration up."
“Overall I am thrilled to be in the lead in the Asia Pacific Championship and looking forward to the next rally in Japan.”
It proved a strong rally for Subaru who claimed the first four placings with Bawden (Hamilton) in fourth spot. Mason won four of the final six special stages but it was his stunning drive on special stage 10 that proved the difference when he was 16 seconds faster than his morning time to blitz the field. The two trans-tasman rivals dominated, claiming 11 of the 12 fastest times, with West claiming a stage record on stage four on Saturday. Murray enjoyed a consistently strong performance, especially on the second day when he was third fastest in five of the six special stages.
The New Zealanders dominated the international field, claiming seven of the top 10 placings. Other Kiwis to perform strongly included Bawden with his fourth placing overall in his return to top level rallying while Hawera’s Glenn Smith and Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour both recovered from a raft of punctures and mechanical problems on the first day to finish seventh and ninth respectively overall. They were split by colourful Auckland driver Mark Tapper who made a successful debut in the small capacity, two-wheel drive Ford Fiesta. Crocker was in a class of his own among the internationals with Malaysia’s Rifat Sungkar next best in sixth from Fan Fan (China) in 14th overall. The New Zealand two-wheel drive category was won by Kayne Barrie.
Provision leading overall results:
Richard Mason – Sara Randall (Masterton, Subaru) 3:12.38, 1; Cody Crocker-Ben Atkinson (Australia, Subaru) at 8.9secs, 2; Sam Murray-Rob Ryan (Palmerston North, Subaru) at 8m21.7s, 3; Todd Bawden – Damon McLachlan (Hamilton, Subaru) at 9:15.4, 4; Brett Martin – Raymond Bennett (Taihape, Mitsubishi) 12:27.5, 5; Rifat Sungkar-Herkusuna Mohamad (Indonesia, Mitsubishi) at 15:20.8, 6; Glenn Smith-Colin Smith (Hawera, Subaru) at 15:45.0, 7; Mark Tapper – Jeff Cress (Auckland, Ford Fiesta) at 16:29.5, 8; Emma Gilmour – Chris Cobham (Dunedin, Subaru) at 18.00.3, 9; Grant Barber – Bede O’Connor (Foxton, Mitsubishi) at 18:46.9, 10