ONE DAY AT A TIME AS BNT MASON MOTORSPORT GOES FOR GOLD AT RALLY HAWKES BAY
By Chris Grant
20th August, 2011Successfully defending their 88 point lead in the New Zealand Rally Championship [NZRC] - and thereby winning a third Goldstar - is the absolute priority for the BNT Mason Motorsport Team as they head into the final round at Hawkes Bay this weekend - August 20 - 21.
Because the points structure for this year's Brian Green Property Group sponsored NZRC is so heavily weighted towards consistency and finishing, rather than rewarding the fastest driver, double New Zealand Rally Champion, Richard Mason, and Champion-elect Co-driver wife Sara, have taken a very tactical approach throughout the series to ensure they have come to this season's finale in the best possible position to take out New Zealand rallying's top award.
As a result of this policy, they now find themselves having to drive this event very much with their heads, and will be aiming to steer a steady path in their BNT Subaru on Day One of the Tomoana Warehousing Rally Hawkes Bay which starts in Napier at 7am this morning.
"As much as we like to go to any rally to drive as fast as possible and try to win, Day One here in the Bay will have to be a 'Steady As She Goes' day," said Richard, "because we can't afford to open the door for our opposition by failing to finish today.
"Another good haul of points [each day offers a maximum of 32 points with a further 64 for the overall rally] today could well help ease the pressure for the second day, so any risk-taking by getting drawn into a battle for the [rally] lead could prove VERY costly in our pursuit of our ultimate goal - which has to be winning the GoldStar championship.
"So our plan is to get safely through today and then see how things look tonight, then decide whether it's more of the same for Sunday or let's 'give it a rip' for the rally win to see if we can take out a fifth one here."
The Masterton Flyers won this rally outright the last time it was a round of the NZRC in April 2009, but the circumstances surrounding it this year could not be more radically different.
In 2009 the roads were dry and dusty and the weather fine and warm. It was also the opening round of that year's championship which ultimately saw Richard finish 2nd in the five round series.
This time it is being held in the middle of one of the wettest and coldest winters for many years, with snow still in evidence after the latest polar blast ripped through the country last week.
These extreme weather conditions have forced last minute changes to the Day One group of stages, so much so that this opening day will now contain little more than two-thirds the normal stage mileage of a leg of an NZRC round.
Following last night’s ceremonial start in Napier, competitors head south to tackle Saturday’s now six stages on roads that have not seen a rally car for many years. They head to the coastal settlement of Porangahau before returning north through Clareinch and Mangakuri roads near Kairakau Beach.
The county roads vary in length from special stage three ‘Old Hill’ at 7.63km to special stage five ‘Hiranui’ at 17.66km. With the cancellation of Te Uri and both passes of Triple Bridges, both Old Hill and Hiranui will now be attempted twice, giving a total special stage distance of just under 80 kilometres, making for an interesting, if somewhat shorter than normal, day for competitors.
A further seven stages on Sunday take crews north from Napier through several forestry roads, near Te Pohue, Esk and Mohaka, before the official finish in Napier’s Clive Square around 430pm.
"You have to really feel for the organisers [the Hawkes Bay Car Club] who have been faced with some really serious issues way beyond their control, but still they are making this event happen, and they deserve a great deal of credit for hanging in there.
"Now we just have to get out there and do the best we can to come away with the result that we are so keen to achieve come Sunday afternoon."
Next.... Photo Album
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20th August, 2011: ONE DAY AT A TIME AS BNT MASON MOTORSPORT GOES FOR GOLD AT RALLY HAWKES BAY - More
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