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Looking at the final winning margin in the New Zealand Rally Championship, it is hard to imagine that Paddon and co-driver John Kennard had to replace two tyres on the Hyundai i20 AP4, as they crossed the finish line 7min 2.9sec ahead of Christchurch’s Josh Marston.
Paddon said although it cost him his preferred clean sweep of the 298km rally’s 14 stages and put paid to the attempt to break his own record in the final Kuri Bush stage, it was enjoyable to be back rallying again with Kennard.
“We clicked like an old glove. John did an awesome job and everything went well as per normal.”
Marston likened himself on Saturday evening to “a computer that needed a reset overnight”.
After his reboot, Marston drove his Holden Barina AP4 hard all day to move up from seventh and set second and third-fastest stage times throughout yesterday’s seven stages.
“We are there at the end. A few of the other guys broke down and crashed, which is part of rallying and we will take it. Second is realistically the best we could think of with Hayden, who always wins,” he said.
Marston commended Gore co-driver Andrew Graves for his efforts.
“He’s a good boy and he does a bloody good job.
"I just have to watch when he tries to steal the steering wheel,” Marston said, referring to Graves’ notable driving talent.
Third, 2min 04sec behind Marston, was a pleasant surprise for Kaikoura driver Regan Ross, in his first NZRC outing in his Ford Fiesta R5.
He had Palmerston North’s Katrina Renshaw calling his pace notes and said he had a good run through the last stage, and the car had run faultlessly.
The M-Sport-built Fiesta, from the United Kingdom, was quite different from Ross’ usual charger, a two-wheel-drive Ford Escort. Although he vowed to be back in his Escort one day, Ross admitted he had always been curious to see what it was like to drive a top-level rally car.
Todd Bawden and co-driver Paul Burborough, both of Hamilton, proved that consistency and being there at the end of the rally counts for everything, achieving an impressive fourth place in a Mitsubishi Evo 6. The top five was rounded out by Rangiora sibling team Matt and Nicole Summerfield (Mitsubishi Mirage AP4.)
The attrition rate yesterday was unusually high, fewer than half the 114 entries recording finish times for all 14 stages. Among the fallen were many of the frontrunners from Saturday, including promising youngster Robbie Stokes (Ford Fiesta AP4). He was one of the first to drop out — after a surprise third placing following Saturday’s seven stages, Waiuku’s Stokes and co-driving sister Amy ground to a halt with a mechanical issue early yesterday.
Andy Martin, of Tauranga, with co-driver Matt Hayward, won the allcomers section of the rally in a Subaru Impreza and also finished eighth overall.
The top Otago driver, after Cromwell-based Paddon, was not Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour, who had flashes of brilliance including four top-three stage times before her Suzuki Swift AP4 succumbed to mechanical failures both days. That honour went instead to Duncan McCrostie, of Bannockburn, making a return to rallying after a 10-year break.
He leased a Mazda 2 AP4 car and was encouraged enough by his 11th placing overall in the Otago event to enter it in next month’s second NZRC round the International Rally of Whangarei.
Christchurch duo Dylan Thomson and Amy Hudson were the first NZRC 2WD championship drivers in a Ford Fiesta ST150.