Mason and BNT Subaru hunting record 5th rally title
Four times New Zealand Rally champion Richard Mason from Masterton could make history as the first driver to secure five titles. Its a point the BNT Subaru driver and co-driver Sara Mason are very aware of as they start the 2014 Brian Green Property Group NZ Rally Championship driven by VINZ this weekend.
Mason’s current haul of four titles (2005, 2006, 2011, & 2012), is only matched by Manawatu driver Bruce Herbert who dominated from 2000 to 2003 with consecutive championships. The Masterton driver already has the record for championship round victories with 23, and a fifth title would make him the most successful driver in NZ rallying history.
The Masons will again pilot their familiar bright yellow Subaru Impreza, which had fantastic pace during the 2013 season. They finished runner-up last year after a season long duel with Hayden Paddon ended in Paddon’s favour on the final round. Rally fans witnessed a supreme battle between the country’s two best drivers. With Paddon off to compete internationally in 2014, the Masons face fresh opposition for the title.
We caught up with Richard ahead of the first round to get his views on the season ahead.
You start the year with the chance to gain a record fifth national title, is that on your mind as the season gets underway?
“The aim everytime we start is to do our best and try and win, so a fifth championship is definitely the goal. We had the speed last year to do it, and it was basically a puncture at the final round that destroyed our chances of grabbing it.”
Have you made many changes to the BNT Subaru in the off-season?
“We will start the year with the car the same as it ended last season. It’s a proven package so we’re going to start with that for Whangarei and Otago. After Dunedin we’ll look to a few engine upgrades for a bit more speed.
There are a number of new entries to the championship this year or drivers stepping up to outright contention, providing new competition for 2014.
I think we’re in for a real treat of a year. There is a number of good drivers with good cars in the championship this year which is great, and they’re all capable of performing well. Sara and I are really excited to just get back into the BNT Subaru for the first event. Its been six months since we were last in the car, so we’re really looking forward to getting into the event and back into competition.
Whangarei has never been kind to you, it’s the only major rally on the calendar missing from your trophy cabinet, do you find it a challenge or enjoy the event given the record?
We have always had good pace there and I do enjoy the roads, but we’ve been let down by silly little things in the past. It would be good to turn that around and finally win it.