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Mason leads race for Otago Rally victory

Masterton husband and wife pairing Richard and Sara Mason have comfortably headed the competition for the first day of Rally Otago.

Richard Mason won every stage on Day 1.Richard Mason won every stage on Day 1.
The weekend’s second round of the Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand
Rally Championship, today’s seven stages held south of host city
Dunedin were graced by a break in the wintry weather.  The early
morning frost set the scene as Mason’s BNT Subaru clean-swept the time
sheets — stretching out a 22 second buffer over second placed Hayden
Paddon’s Mitsubishi.
With much of the championship besieged by
punctures during the day, Mason says driving to the conditions kept him
free of tyre deflations: “There were a lot of sharp rocks, especially
the second pass — and we really did back off a lot.  Actually stage one
we backed off for quite a few sharp rocks but second time through it
was particularly bony.   So we were definitely looking out for those
Third, Hastings driver Stewart Taylor was another
puncture casualty, although dropped minimal time to maintain his
comfortable position.
“I got to the point where I was in
no-mans land — those other guys got away far in front. I just thought I
would drive safely to the finish and picked up a puncture myself.  I
stopped cutting corners and still got a puncture,” described Taylor.
the two-wheel drive category, Auckland’s Dave Strong (Honda Civic)
surged ahead of Aaron Cook’s Honda Jazz and the Ford Fiesta of Chris
Lange.  Even a minor off-road excursion by Palmerston North’s Bert
Murray did little to upset today’s lead in the Classic category.  The
RX7 pilot finished well clear of points leader Rob Wylie in the Nissan
Hayden Paddon is still in with a victory chance.Hayden Paddon is still in with a victory chance.Of those most affected by punctures,
Mitsubishi’s Chris West punctured early in the opening stage — largely
eliminating him from the top of the championship points haul on offer
for the day:
“It was the last thing I was expecting,” said West,
stopping to change the tyre.  “All we can do is put it behind us; but
to be fair we have still had a reasonably tough day.”
Classic champion Euan Fuge also lost several minutes to a puncture,
while Ford Fiesta points leader Patrick Malley over-turned his day on
the opening test.  The Aucklander intends to restart for fresh points
Sunday’s action heads north for two tests in northern
Otago before concluding the event over classic tests south of Dunedin. 
The remaining cars then return for a 2:30pm champagne finish in the
Rally of Otago (Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship) — Saturday (top-10) *provisional
R Mason/S Mason — Subaru
H Paddon/J Kennard — Mitsubishi +22.7
S Taylor/W Searle — Mitsubishi +2m15.9
D Sumner/P Fallon — Mitsubishi +3m52.1
C West/ G Cowan — Mitsubishi +3m56.1
E Gilmour/G Macneall — Subaru +4m43.3
S Cox/T Cox — Mitsubishi +5m15.7
G Barber/B O’Connor — Subaru +6m09.8
A Meier/J Farmer — Subaru +7m04.5
D Strong/B McKenzie — Honda Civic +7m13.4

Photos: Peter Whitten

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