Ninth title for dominant Paddon

Proving he is nigh-on unbeatable, Hayden Paddon extended his record-breaking victory tally to nine at the weekend’s Otago Rally.

Despite a fresh onslaught of newer, faster and more purpose-built rally cars entered in the New Zealand Rally Championship’s season-opener, Paddon was once again pure class.

Otago Rally overall winner Hayden Paddon, of Cromwell, and co-driver John Kennard, of Blenheim,...
Otago Rally overall winner Hayden Paddon, of Cromwell, and co-driver John Kennard, of Blenheim, celebrate as they stand with their Hyundai i20 AP4 at the podium at Brighton Domain in Dunedin yesterday. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
The former WRC driver delighted the rally’s spectators with displays of phenomenal speed, braking and cornering in his Hyundai i20AP4 to win the two-day rally by 5min 27.1sec over runner-up Ben Hunt, who had an impressive debut in his factory-built Skoda Fabia R5.

Arguably the chasing pack did close in on Paddon, as last year he had a 7min buffer to second, but a rare mechanical failure for the Cromwell-based driver left him and co-driver John Kennard with a broken driveshaft in Saturday’s stage three.

Otago Rally winner Hayden Paddon, kicking up the dust and a wheel on his Hyundai, heads through...
Otago Rally winner Hayden Paddon, kicking up the dust and a wheel on his Hyundai, heads through stage 15 yesterday. PHOTO: DAVID THOMSON
It was the only time the long-term pairing slipped off the stage wins, dropping to 11th on the 10.7km Moonlight test. Then a front puncture in the last 10km of the long 37.3km Nenthorn power stage eight, also slowed Paddon’s dominant charge.

“It was a bit of a trying weekend and hasn’t been as smooth sailing as we would’ve liked. The stages have been in perfect condition though and it’s been good fun.

"We’ve driven smoothly, kept it clean and John has done an awesome job in the car.

"The team have done an amazing job, so all in all we are happy with the result,” Paddon said.

Hunt's confidence in his new Skoda grew markedly over the weekend and he and co-driver Tony Rawstorn finished each of yesterday's seven stages in the top four, holding on to the second place they had gained by the end of day one.

“It’s definitely a dream to drive and I’m just so excited to do this with Skoda and the Giltrap Group. To be in a World Rally [2] Car like this, it’s pretty awesome and me and Tony have still got a lot to learn,” Hunt said.

Adding a second Skoda and Aucklander to the podium was Raana Horan, with Michael Connor, in his Fabia R5.

Robbie Stokes, fourth overall in the Otago Rally in his Ford Fiesta, powers through a downhill...
Robbie Stokes, fourth overall in the Otago Rally in his Ford Fiesta, powers through a downhill bend on the rally’s 10th stage, near Lee Flat, yesterday. PHOTO: DAVID THOMSON
The battle for third place had been hot all event, the main contenders desperately trying to avoid a puncture or a spin that would derail their chances.

“For us we had a bit of a lead which we gathered through various ways and we’ve been managing it all day.

"That lead got whittled away and we had quite a few coming up our butts to catch us,” Horan said.

One of those hard-chasers was youngster Robbie Stokes with co-driving sister Amy.

The Waikuku duo finished a frustratingly-close 10.1sec off third.

Stokes said picking the wrong tyres on stage 12 caused a time-soaking spin yesterday.

However, as his confidence increases in the Ford Fiesta AP4’s ability, the team is working to match it with reliability, which is something they are tantalisingly close to.

“We are doing it nearly perfectly,” he said.

Hometown driver Emma Gilmour had a bittersweet end to what could have resulted in a third-placed champagne spray.

She was sitting in this podium position after Saturday’s seven stages but brake problems leaving yesterday’s first service meant her team had to execute a frantic calliper change.

The time penalty for leaving late dropped her back to sixth and, although she battled valiantly in her Suzuki Swift AP4, gaining one place to finish fifth was her final result.

Other impressive outings included Hamilton’s Todd Bawden, who drove his brand-new Ford Fiesta R5 into sixth place and in the same first outing boat, Cromwell-based Ari Pettigrew brought his leased Holden Barina AP4 in a close 10sec behind in seventh.

Kaikoura’s Regan Ross won the Allcomers Rally by more than 4min in his Ford Fiesta R5 to finish ninth overall.

 - Catherine Pattison

 

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