Kiwi rally stars Hayden Paddon and John Kennard took a commanding win at this weekend’s Rally of Otago in the Paddon Rallysport-prepared Hyundai i20 AP4.
With a winning margin of seven minutes and 32.9 seconds, Paddon and Kennard were delighted to net their fourth win in the Hyundai at this event, one of their favourite’s, and earn maximum points in the opening round of the 2021 New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC).
While their fellow NZRC competitors experienced a range of mechanical and performance challenges across the two-day rally, Paddon and Kennard had a near perfect run to win 12 of the 14 special stages and set new stage records on 11 stages. Two punctures on Sunday afternoon prevented a clean sweep of stage wins, but Paddon was still pleased to return to competition in such strong form.
Paddon paid credit to the Paddon Rallysport team who have put in a huge effort since the last event for the AP4 car in November 2020 when Paddon and Kennard won the City of Auckland Rally but crashed out of the Battle of Jack’s Ridge which required a virtual rebuild of the car from the ground up.
With last year’s championship cancelled due to the impact of Covid, the 44 NZRC entrants at Otago were excited to get back into action 546 days since the last NZRC event in 2019.
Starting in clear, dry conditions on Saturday, Paddon was top seed in the NZRC/Allcomers field. Through Saturday’s seven stages and 141km of competition, Paddon and Kennard were able to build a substantial margin of three minutes, 27 seconds by day’s end. At times, the pair hit top speeds of just over 200km/h on the Otago rally’s acclaimed high speed gravel roads while an intense battle behind them for second and third places raged throughout the day.
Following overnight rain, Sunday’s seven stages, totalling 156 km, saw 93 of the original 110 entrants restart. After the day’s third stage, Paddon had extended his lead to five minutes, 20 seconds over Dylan Turner before the front left tyre punctured in the 28.28km SS11, Table Hill. He still managed second fastest and to slightly increase his lead over second place which was then held by Ben Hunt. With Turner and Hunt out, Paddon’s advantage over second place – now held by Josh Marston – grew to over seven and a half minutes. Despite the right front tyre delaminating in the final stage, Kuri Bush which is one of Paddon’s absolute favourites, he managed to secure fourth fastest on that stage and maintain his winning margin of over seven and a half minutes for the 298 competitive kilometres.
Paddon also drove the Hyundai Kona EV rally car at the Rally of Otago, doing two demonstration runs at Saturday’s super special tarmac stage. While the electric car is primarily intended to run on gravel and is slightly comprised in terms of performance on tarmac, Paddon said it was great to show Otago rally fans what the car is capable of.
Next up for Paddon Rallysport is the second NZRC round, the International Rally of Whangarei on 15 and 16 May. The team are participating in some PR events the week prior to Whangarei so have a quick turnaround to tidy a few things with the car before they depart their Cromwell base.
Paddon Rallysport values the support of several New Zealand and global companies, including Hyundai New Zealand, Mitre 10 Trade, Z Energy, Pirelli Motorsport, Bar’s Bugs, Winmax Brake Pads, Highlands, BenNevisStation, Gravity Internet, Bailey Caravans and Motorhomes New Zealand, Sign It Signs, Queenstown NZ, Repco New Zealand and MA Media Ltd.
Keep up with news on Hayden Paddon and the Paddon Rallysport Hyundai i20 AP4 via the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/paddonrallysport.