West by a whisker in the Bay

AutoTrader NZ
Published 3 September 2020

Mason prevailed on Saturday, outdistancing West, after the former champion opted for tyres that were too wide for the road conditions in Saturday’s first heat.

West fought back in the afternoon, winning all three stages and leapfrogging from fifth to second place, and coming close to halving the gap to Mason.
On Sunday, West (2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STi) and Mason (2001 WRX) fought a fierce battle in which West got the upper hand to win Leg 2, fought over five special stages to Saturday’s six, by 15.1 seconds from Mason.
That was a four-tenths of a second greater margin than Mason’s Leg 1-winning gap of 14.7 seconds.

On total time, it gave West the overall rally win by 0.4 of a second.
It was West’s second consecutive victory in the 2006 Parker Enzed Rally Championship, he also won the last round, the Whangarei Rally.
With two rounds left. at Wairarapa and Nelson, Mason is still looking fairly secure at the top of the points table.

That position was made a little better by the frustrating weekend endured by Sam Murray (WRX). Murray finished fifth on Saturday, then retired on Sunday after a tree branch went through his Subaru’s radiator. The branches had been left scattered over the ground after logging operations. Murray has held on to second in the championship, though he’s now 74 points behind Mason.
“It was great to get the overall win here,” said West. “After we mucked up the tyre choice for the first three stages yesterday I knew it would be hard work to get the time back.”

Mason went into Sunday’s second heat of the event with a 14.7-second advantage over West.

West’s efforts weren’t made any easier by the road conditions during the first three stages on Sunday. As the first two drivers through the stages, Mason and West often had to sweep the loose gravel aside for the following cars.
“It’s the first time it’s really been a problem this year,” said West. But after those first three stages, he had edged 5.2 seconds closer to Mason.

Then in the day’s longest stage, 32km over the Maungaharuru Range north west of Napier, West was five seconds fastest, hitting 200km/h on one long downhill straight according to the car’s computer data recorder readout.
West took the overall lead for the weekend on what was supposed to be the penultimate stage, a slippery 23km through the Esk Forest where he was 4.9 seconds faster than Mason, giving him victory by 0.4 of a second.

The final stage along the Ngaruroro River stop banks was cancelled as conditions were considered to be too dangerous after recent heavy rain.
“Winning today’s second heat was the first objective,” said West. “After that, taking the overall weekend was a nice bonus. I was a bit cautious on the first stage this morning [won by Mason], but after that we weren’t holding back too much.”

Brett Martin finished third overall in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, the first time this year that Subaru drivers haven’t made a clean sweep of the podium.
Emma Gilmour, was fourth for the weekend in another Impreza WRX ST, despite a malfunctioning centre differential which saw her spin several times during Sunday.

Hayden Paddon (Evo 9), finished fifth after solid performanxces in both legs of the event: he was sixth in Heat 1, fifth in Heat 2.

Then came Stewart Taylor in a similar car.

Glenn Smith was eighth in his Subaru WRX. He battled illness all day Saturday and managed eighth overall: on Sunday he hit his straps, coming home fourth after winning SS8, Mohaka Coach. That fourth placing was Smith’s best showing in the Subaru.

Evo drivers Brent Taylor and Dean Sumner completed the top 10 overall finishers.

Andrew Keighley won Kiwi 2 overall in his Honda CRX del Sol.