By Chris Grant
Current New Zealand Rally Champion, Richard Mason, has added yet another record to his already impressive Rallying CV, by setting a new benchmark of six consecutive Parker-ENZED New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) Round wins – two more than the previous mark that was last achieved ten years ago.
Based on data contained in the 28 editions of Martin Holmes World Rallying Annuals, Richard tied the previous record of 4 in a row - held jointly by two of New Zealand’s Rallying Legends – Neil Allport (1989/90 in his Mazda 323) and Joe McAndrew (twice) in 1994/95 and again in 1996 (both times in his Subaru Legacy) – when he took away the 2005 Gold Star Championship by winning Rally Nelson last September.
The 28 year old’s record run began at Queens Birthday Weekend in June 2005 in his hometown of Masterton, after Chris West was declared the Otago Round Winner by the NZRC Tie Break Rule, where both the leading Subaru drivers had posted a 1st & 2nd apiece, so finished on equal points, but West had the lower total elapsed time.
The last stage, come-from-behind, win at Wairarapa was followed by 2nd Outright (but 1st NZRC) to PCWRC World Champion – Toshi Arai – at NZ’s FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) round at Rotorua. Further victories at Hawkes Bay and Nelson saw Richard take out the 2005 NZRC title and equal the Allport/McAndrew record.
When 2006 started with another 2nd place at Otago in May - and again on a Tie Break – it appeared to be the end of the winning run, but at Rally Whangarei two weeks ago, Chris West was excluded from Otago, thereby making Richard the winner ‘Down South’ as well.
So 5 in a row therefore became 6 with Richard’s stunning performance in mowing down three-times Australian Rally Champion Cody Crocker in the closing stages of the Hella International Rally of Rotorua at the end of May – another record that makes Richard the youngest Kiwi Rally Driver to ever win an International Rally.
A left rear puncture on the BNT Subaru during the first stage of Rally Whangarei effectively spelt the end of this 13 month-long record-breaking sequence, but a gutsy drive back up the leaderboard saw ‘EVOETA’ finish 3rd for the Rally, then 2nd at the inaugural Rallysprint meant 2nd for the Round.
“I can’t remember when we last had a tyre go flat in a special stage and certainly never in an NZRC round [5 years] before. I couldn’t believe it, because we were going so well, and I know we didn’t hit anything.”
And not to be outdone, Richard’s Co-Driver/Fiancee – 20 year old Sara Randall – now holds more records for Co-Drivers, besides being the only female from New Zealand to win an International Rally – let alone far and away the youngest of either gender to do so.
Her first ever co-drive was in the Rally Xtreme round at Gisborne in March last year (which they won) and since then, apart from being forced to miss Rotorua in 2005 due to university exams – Sara has called the pace notes in NZ for Richard on 7 other occasions – for an unbelievable 6 Wins and 2 Seconds. 4 of those victories – Hawkes Bay 05, Nelson 05, Otago 06 and Rotorua 06 – were consecutive NZRC Rounds, so Sara has equaled the record New Zealand’s most successful Co-Driver, Bob Haldane, achieved three times when he was alongside both Allport and McAndrew.
“It’s been an amazing run which, I guess, had to end sooner or later. But for us to perform at such a successful level for so long and, for that matter, right from the start, especially considering Sara had never co-driven before, has to be down to the Richard Mason Motorsport Team and all our Supporters, who have consistently given us the ideal machine and shown incredible belief in us.
“Now we just have to go for third time lucky in China next weekend [July 22nd & 23rd] to show we can do just as well using someone else’s car and away from home territory and our familiar surroundings.”
Richard and Sara are on their way back to China to drive for the GT Tires Rally Team in the second round of the China Rally Championship, which is based at Liu Panshui in the Guizhou Province in the west of China over the weekend of July 22nd and 23rd.
It is a very busy time for the young Masterton Flyers as they are not due back home until Wednesday July 26th. They will therefore, almost immediately, head to the next round of the Parker-ENZED New Zealand Rally Championship - the Rally of Hawkes Bay - which takes place the following weekend, as they look to consolidate the 33 point lead they currently hold at the half way mark in this year’s series.
For further information about the Rally of Hawkes Bay – July 28th-30th - www.hbcarclub.co.nz
For further information about the Parker-ENZED New Zealand Rally Championship - www.motorsport.org.nz/Rally