Paddon secures NZ Rally Championship with his Coromandel victory

Hayden Paddon
Hayden Paddon
New Zealand rally star Hayden Paddon wrapped up the 2018 New Zealand Rally Championship title by winning the one-day Rally of Coromandel on Saturday.

With Malcolm Peden in the co-driver’s seat for the second time this season, Paddon overcame turbo hose issues in his Hyundai i20 AP4+ rally car to win his fourth NZRC event this year.

The Coromandel rally, with its twisty, slower roads, represented unfinished business for the Hyundai driver, having been the only national championship event he had never won.

It was not an easy win either — the turbo issues meant Paddon’s 70sec lead over second-placed Ben Hunt after the first two special stages vanished,  and he dropped down the leaderboard to third. Running repairs and intensive work by the Paddon Rallysport team during the noon service meant Paddon could secure two more stage wins before the turbo hose problem returned.

"It was down to the wire as we battled to get the car through with no power," said Paddon.

"Luckily the five stage wins throughout the day built enough of a margin for Mal and I to hold on for the rally win."

His final winning margin of just 18.7sec over Hunt was less than many were predicting for the eight-stage gravel rally, which took competitors in a loop around the Coromandel peninsula from the rally’s base in Whitianga.

This is Paddon’s fourth New Zealand title, and while his domestic competition goals are more about keeping him match-fit for his World Rally Championship duties with Hyundai Motorsport, the championship honours still mean a lot to the New Zealander.

"It is obviously great to wrap it up, but it was a pretty difficult day," Paddon said.

"To keep blowing the turbo hoses off on three stages was frustrating, so we had to work for it. Essentially it was damage limitation, but we were able to hold on in the end.

"Big thanks to our guys who have done a great job all year and to Hyundai NZ for making this NZRC campaign possible. It is good for the team, good for the boys and good for Hyundai who now have their first-ever New Zealand motorsport title."

During Friday’s reconnaissance of the four stages repeated to create the Coromandel rally itinerary, Paddon may have created a world-first by using an electric version of Hyundai’s Kona compact SUV as his recce car. Released earlier in August, the Kona EV’s range of more than 450km allowed Paddon to easily complete two passes through the 113.93 km of special stages.

Paddon now returns to Europe to test for Rally Turkey, which takes place September 13-16. It will be the first time most  current WRC competitors have contested the Turkish event, which returns to the WRC calendar this year for the first time in eight years.

Meanwhile the Paddon Rallysport crew will be putting the Hyundai i20 AP4+ car into hillclimb mode, ready for Paddon’s swift return to New Zealand for the September 22-23 running of the Ashley Forest Rally Sprint.

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