However, behind Mason a fierce scrap was developing. Chris West and Emma Gilmour played a game of trading places, until Alex Kelsey joined the fray and rocketed from 5th to 2nd in just two stages. So by the end of stage 5 there was just 1.8 seconds coving places 2 to 5, with Dean Sumner having crept into 5th after a fine win on stage 5.
With only 3 stages left in the day, yet another driver put his hand up, and Sloan Cox had made his way into the top 5. In the run down to the end of the day, first it was Kelsey who made the running, then it was West. However the final lunge at the line saw Sumner take 2nd place for the leg by virtue of winning the last stage of the day.
That put West back to third, while a fast finishing Cox snaffled fourth from Kelsey. Despite earlier mechanical gremlins Gilmour maintained 6th, but the field is still tightly bunched, with 21 seconds covering 2nd to 6th.
In the Malcolm Stewart Classic Rally again there is a runaway leader. Marcus van Klink in the potent Group B RX 7 has pulled away from the chasing pack, winning every stage of the day and enjoying an overnight lead of 5 and a half minutes.
A battle had been developing behind van Klink, between Jeff Judd, Duncan McCrostie, and Hugh Spence. However a broken axle put pay to McCrostie’s challenge, and a run in with the scenery took Spence out of the picture. That left Judd to cruise the last few stages, as third for the day was inherited by Ron Davey.
However Davey will need to be on his game for day 2, with Miles McElwain only 14 seconds adrift in fourth, and Jason Timmins 5th, another 29 seconds back.
Day two will start at the lovely Tararua township of Eketahuna, with another 8 stages and 129km of high speed action, before finishing back at the Copthorne Hotel and Resort Solway Park at 3:35pm
Full spectator information, including maps and schedules are available from www.rallywairarapa.co.nz
while live results will be on line at www.chrissport.co.nz