Hayden Paddon, with co-driver John Kennard alongside, showed his drive to perform at his best is as strong as ever with a dominant performance at the International Rally of Whangarei over the weekend of 15-16 May.
Paddon and Kennard, from Cromwell and Blenheim respectively, piloted the Paddon Rallysport-prepared Hyundai i20 AP4 through two days of high-speed competition to win by a margin of four minutes and 9.9 seconds from closest rival Ben Hunt.
Throughout the 260 competitive kilometres on the much-loved cambered gravel roads around the northern city of Whangarei, the pair set six new stage records, bettering their times from 2019 in the same car and, in one case – the 13.27km Helena stage used for SS3 and SS7 on Saturday – improving on their first run’s time of 9.49.8 with a time of 9.42.6 during the afternoon run.
As they did at the Rally of Otago in April, Paddon and Kennard secured maximum points for the rally to head the 2021 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship points table. They each now have 88 points in the drivers’ and co-drivers’ championships respectively.
Paddon says conditions were near-on perfect with Friday night rain helping compact the gravel stages which progressively dried over the weekend. Clearer lines during the repeated afternoon run helped with improved stage times on Sunday, but a slightly too hard tyre compound choice on Saturday meant he wasn’t able to make the same gains.
The Kiwi rally star paid credit to the hard work of the entire Paddon Rallysport crew whose effort and expertise saw the Hyundai i20 run faultlessly throughout the weekend. “The team did an awesome job like usual; the car was faultless and everything ran like clockwork. Often it looks easy from the outside but inside the team, there’s a lot of work and effort to have a car that runs so well.
Paddon also acknowledged the intensity of competition among the other top New Zealand Rally Championship contenders. While there were issues for some of the frontrunners, many of their stage times were not far off Paddon’s own times for those stages in recent years – a point which highlights the improvements some have been able to make.
“It’s awesome to see how close the competition is despite the issues that some of them faced. There’s a lot of drivers driving faster now, making really good improvements. It’s cool to see how close this bunch is as they get closer to the times we were setting a couple of years ago. The level of competition is increasing which is good for the future of New Zealand rallying.”
Paddon Rallysport head to the third round of the New Zealand Rally Championship next, with the one-day Rally South Canterbury near Paddon’s hometown of Timaru on 19 June.
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