Motorsport: Rally couple keen to conquer

By Eric Thompson

It's been a season of great rallying for the Masons.
It's been a season of great rallying for the Masons.

Richard and Sara Mason want to be the first crew to win all six rounds

After a couple of relatively quiet weeks, a bundle of Kiwis belt up in international motorsport categories this weekend. On the domestic front, round five of the NZ Rally Championship races around the Coromandel Peninsula; three Kiwis resume battle at the V8 Supercars series in Sydney while Mitch Evans and Richie Stanaway are at Spa Francorchamps for their support races at the Belgium Formula One Grand Prix.

Porsche pilot Earl Bamber joins them for his Porsche Supercup race and Scott Dixon is hoping for a win at Sonoma to stay in championship contention. Chris van der Drift is on the comeback trail in the Blancpain Endurance series in the Slovak Republic.

Gold Rush Rally
Richard and Sara Mason have taken the NZ Rally Championship, having won all four rounds this year. The couple are keen to become the first crew to win all six rounds.

It won't be easy. The VINZ Gold Rush Rally of Coromandel is a new addition to the championship, contested over 135km of gravel roads on the peninsula. The stages are a mix of demanding technical sections through the twisting ranges to fast and flowing runs towards the coastline.

Second seeds Ben Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawstorn have been the only team to threaten the Masons' domination, and the Coromandel stages should suit Hunt's car and driving style. The Nelson pairing has excelled in this type of terrain at previous national rounds.

Supercars in Sydney
Defending V8 Supercars champion Jamie Whincup looked out of sorts early in the season but has come good and now leads the series from Mark Winterbottom and Craig Lowndes.

The three Kiwis didn't have the best of outings at the last round at Queensland Raceway.

The biggest loser was Fabian Coulthard, who slipped to fifth on the leader board. Shane van Gisbergen is only three points in arrears while Scott McLaughlin is hovering in sixth.

The formbook is out the window this weekend as it's the first time the new-generation cars will have raced at the Sydney Motorsport Park - last round held there was in 2012.

Lowndes had the best record in the old car with five wins and will need another to close the 162-point to team-mate Whincup.

Bamber back
Earl Bamber is one of the busiest racecar drivers, contesting two national championships and one international. He leads the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia series and the German series.

This weekend he's belting up in the international Porsche Supercup at Spa Francorchamps where he hopes to overhaul Kuba Giermaziak's nine-point lead to head his third series.

Bamber should go well at Spa as it's the longest track on the race calendar at 7km and the Kiwi likes its passing opportunities.

Kiwis at Spa
Two of New Zealand's brightest single-seater talents - Mitch Evans in GP2 and Richie Stanaway in GP3 - race at the Belgium Grand Prix meeting.

Evans struggled early in the season but picked up places and wins towards mid-season to climb to fifth before falling back to sixth after a bad time in Hungary. With four rounds to go, including this weekend, closing the 100-point gap on series leader Jolyon Palmer is too big an ask, but a top-three championship finish is a possibility.

Stanaway has been on the podium at least once every weekend he's raced and is second in the championship behind former Toyota Racing Series contestant Alex Lynn.

Last roll for Dixon
Scott Dixon has managed to hang on by his fingernails in an effort to defend his IndyCar title. In a year he'd probably like to forget, the Kiwi has struggled after the switch to Chevy engines and grabbed his first win only three weeks ago at Mid-Ohio.

Dixon will need to win the last two races at Sonoma this weekend and Fontana next to have any chance of securing his fourth title.

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- NZ Herald

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