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Black Bullet Profile: Richard & Sara Mason
www.richardmason.co.nz

 
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RICHARD MASON

Who is Richard Mason? His bio of course can tell a story, but it's hard to convey the real Richard Mason via print. It's hard to describe the absolute hunger he has for victory, the total drive he has to be the best and the committment to making sure he attains the goals he sets for himself.

But, we can let you know how he's worked his way to the top, and here is the start of the story....

Richard Mason has had an interest and involvement with Motorsport from a young age. His parents Tom and Alison raced in rallies in the 80's when Richard was a child.

Richard's first competitive interest in Motorsport started with racing in local Car Club events before moving into Go-Kart's, where he had a season of racing Karts while he completed building his first Rally car, a Mark 1 Ford Escort.

Richard showed considerable talent from early on - immediately achieving good results. From the Ford Escort, he moved up to a new class by competing in a Toyota Celica GT4 which was his introduction to a 4-wheel drive, turbo car. He spent a year competing in this car with continued success.

This invaluable experience made Richard realise that to advance his rally career he needed a more competitive car - a full group A spec. car and so he bought a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 3, which had won the New Zealand North Island Scholarship in 1999. This was a great leap and Richard rose to the challenge.

His talent really came to the fore in the 2001 season when he won the Propecia New Zealand North Island Rally Scholarship. On the way to doing this he was able to secure two outright victories. He really turned heads at the Parker- Enzed Rally of Rotorua when he started in 20th position and ended the first day in 6th place, a leg which included the notorious Motu stages, near Opotiki.

However, the highlight for the 2001 season would have to be the fantastic result at Propecia Rally New Zealand that was labeled the Drive of the Rally. The team was able to get the most out of "the aged" Evo3 (The 1991 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3 Richard and Hamish drove was the oldest car in the top 40 that finished, and quite possibly the oldest car in the rally) and ended as 4th New Zealander's home and a great 22nd overall, especially considering all 14 International Works Teams entries finished the Rally.

The 2002 rally season surpassed all expectations by seeing a win in the Parker-Enzed Junior National Championship and an impressive 2nd overall in the Parker- Enzed National Championship at the teams first full National Championship campaign. After the first round of the Parker-Enzed New Zealand Rally Championship in Otago, the media commented "Herbert Wins, But Mason Stars."

This was acheived in a Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 5 that Richard had built up himself - a really versatile competitor!

Three top six finishes in New Zealand Rally Championship Rounds are required to be awarded a Motorsport New Zealand 'B' Seed and as Richard had only ever competed in four New Zealand Rally Championship rallies, he has achieved this goal faster than any other driver in the New Zealand Rally history. Only two events later, Richard was able to secure an 'A' seed.
The season ended with a high note with Richard winning the Wairarapa Sports Personality of the Year.


SARA MASON

How did Sara first get into rallying?
She was only 13 years old when she turned on the TV to see Tommi Makinen slide his Mitsubishi Evo 6 into first place to win the World Rally Championship. From that day on, her only goal in life was to compete in the World Rally Championship.

With all her earnings saved, she purchased a very tired, 1974 Morris Marina to use as a paddock car - learning how to change gears all by herself. Lots of practice round the paddocks saw poor old Morris die an undignified death.

Two weeks before her 15th birthday, she was given a Datsun Sunny rallycar for a combined Christmas/birthday present by her parents. Christened Datty, the car had been lusted over by Sara for months prior to that as it was owned by the local service station owner and was often parked at the station when we stopped off for petrol.

On Track
Datty and Sara quickly became a team. Her car control skills improved with help from members of the local Nelson Car Club - especially that of Rob McKee (Mainland series 2wd champion). Rob had given Sara a few runs in the silly seat (co-driver) and also spent several sessions both in the paddock and on the track coaching her.

Sara entered a few hillclimbs and gravelsprints. She heard about a rally school and wrote on an internet list asking if anyone in New Zealand knew of a good school near Nelson. This was to be a turning point in her 'career'. The query was answered by someone who was to become a very important part of the team - www.car.co.nz motorsport journalist Lance Hastie.

Lance organised tuition with Palmerston North driver Sam Murray to be followed the next day by competing in the Trentham Rallysprint in Wellington.
He also introduced Sara to some of the people she had seen on TV and read about in the motorsport articles - a dream come true. The tuition was awesome - the event was awesome - it was a great weekend and we all came home fired up for more.

Lance became Sara's manager and as a temporary measure, doubled as her co-driver. They sped through the Redwood Pass Hillclimb to be 13th out of 19 competitors - an amazing result for such a short time driving ! - flying over a culvert without touching the road at one stage.

Oops !
Then disaster struck - that which (in rallying) we all know is coming, but hoped it wouldn't be for a while! On 10th June, 2001 while competing in the Whangamoa Seal Hillclimb, Sara (with her dad Nigel as co-driver) sped up the hill, hit some rocks on the side of the road, ripped the tyre off the rim and smashed head first into a bank doing around 105km/hr.

Datty was dead, Sara was injured - a fractured wrist, whiplash, severely bruised knee and a lip that stayed numb for almost a month!
Down, but certainly not out, Sara phoned Lance with the news. No car, a major event in around 4 weeks time (the Hawkes Bay Rally) and a HUGE loss of confidence.

Lance to the rescue
Lance came through. He flew down to view the damage, organised the car to be sent up to Palmerston North (where he lives) and in only two weeks, totally rebuilt the car. We arrived in Palmerston North to help tighten up a few of the last bolts to go in, do a fitting on the drivers seat for Sara, load the car on the trailer and drive straight to scrutineering for the rally.

AND, they finished the rally with the car in one piece. Words can never express how grateful we are to Lance. He worked day and night on that car to get it done and presented Sara with a wonderful new car - Datsta. Our thanks also to a wonderful service crew of Michelle and Ian Barr - totally unflappable at all times, to Darren (Lance's neighbour) who helped in the evenings and to Mr & Mrs Hastie (Lance's mum & dad) for putting up with all the noise, having Lance snore off at the dinner table and feeding us all when we turned up to help.

Back to business
After Hawkes Bay rally, the team competed in the Nelson Rally - once again finishing - although not before they obliterated a signpost when a faulty tripmeter caused them to almost miss a turn. In front of a huge crowd, this certainly has been the most talked about moment during the rally !!

2002 - A New Year
2002 saw an even bigger increase in confidence with the securing of Kirsty Raymer as co-driver and a new lease of life for Datsta with his new engine. The girls tackled the Westland Rally - one which saw 6 cars out on the first stage !! The roads in Westland are very harsh on the cars, but are roads that Sara thrives on. She loves the rough stuff and give her a watersplash and she is in seventh heaven !!

Since All This Happened?
WOW, lots has happened - including a full NZ Rally Championship campaign which saw our young star win her class at the International Rally of Rotorua and then go on to be placed second overall in the 2wd NZ Rally Championship only one point away from the leader (and eventual winner) until Bert's engine blew up and put her out of the 2004 competition.
To follow Sara and her Team's progress, please visit our other pages where Sara provides reports on their events.

Yes, But What About School??
A few a people have asked what all this rallying does to Sara's school work. We are very proud to report that she had a blinder of a 7th form year at school. This includes several sporting award nominations and a Merit Award for her hard work and consistent performance throughout the year. Rallying has given her a huge increase in self confidence and the ability to concentrate, plan and work hard for good results. A huge thanks to all the teachers and the Principal at Nelson College for Girls who support her rallying totally.

Sara finished her High School years with an A Bursary and a Scholarship in Science (top 3% in New Zealand). She is now tackling a joint degree - BBS/BSc at Massey University with great grades and gaining the University Blues award which is a sports colours for excellence in sport combined with full time university study!





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