Paddon’s sixth NZRC title bid off to strong start
Kiwi rally star Hayden Paddon, co-driver John Kennard and the Hyundai New Zealand Rally team put together a near perfect performance for the opening round of the New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) in Dunedin over the weekend of 9-10 April.
Paddon and Kennard won the Otago Rally for the sixth consecutive time while they piloted the Hyundai i20 AP4 rally car to win 13 of the rally’s 14 special stages, secure five new stage records and top the standings for the NZRC points table. The rally also counted as a qualifying round of the 2022 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, so the pair scored maximum points there too.
Paddon pays credit to the Hyundai New Zealand Rally team who he says prepared an absolutely mechanically perfect car, although the weekend wasn’t without its challenges even for this multi-championship winning team. A driveshaft issue, and a resultant spin, near the start of the third stage on Saturday morning gave Paddon a nervous moment but he was able to get the car to the scheduled service at the end of the stage for the team to fix the car.
He went on to win Saturday’s seven special stages by a margin of three minutes and 5.5 seconds from Ben Hunt in second place, despite a delaminating tyre in the day’s final stage. With this stage being the power stage, Paddon was pleased to still be able to secure a stage win and maximum points.
Sunday’s weather dawned as fine and clear as Saturday’s and plenty of fans were out to watch the 98 strong Otago Rally field in action.
Paddon and Kennard delivered a masterclass of rallying action as they took the Hyundai i20 AP4 to seven wins from seven stages, notching up four more stage records along the way.
In the end, they finished with a margin of five minutes, 27.1 seconds over Hunt in second place. This isn’t the pair’s biggest winning margin at the Otago Rally, but Paddon was still very pleased with the strong result to get his 2022 competition season underway.
“The driveshaft failure at the start of the third stage on Saturday caused us a nervous moment when it spun the car around, but we got it back to service and the guys were able to fix it up.
“Then there was a puncture on the last stage. Very mindful that SS8 was the power stage so tried to nurse it through the stage to minimise the time loss and get those power stage points. We were luckily able to do that.
“Overall, it’s been a good weekend. To get the win was our target. It always puts a bit of pressure on when you’ve only got one target for the weekend. To tick it off and get maximum points for the weekend is perfect, although probably not as plain sailing as we’d have liked.
“We know there’s a lot more performance left there that we weren’t able to extract over the weekend, but all in all when you’ve got the margin we got, we can only be happy to bring home the result for Hyundai New Zealand and the team.
“The car’s feeling very good. We have to finetune a few aspects, having changed quite a few things on the car this weekend. Now we have more data of how these changes worked in a rally environment, so we’ll take those away and finetune that for the next rally in Whangarei in May.
“I’m happy to have some new stage records and I know there’s more in the tank when we come back again in the coming years. It’s always nice to tick these points off and show we’re going in the right direction in terms of my performance on the road.”
The Hyundai New Zealand Rally team are now preparing for the International Rally of Whangarei taking place 13-15 May.
Paddon and Hyundai New Zealand Rally appreciate the support of Hyundai New Zealand, Mitre 10 Trade, Z Energy, Makita, Bailey Caravans, Ben Nevis Station, Winmax Brakes, Gravity Internet, Pak N’ Save, Bars Bugs, Pirelli, OMP/Racer Products, Mike Greer Homes, Bartercard, Accessman, Sign It Signs, Carters Tyre Service and Provident Insurance.
Keep up with news on Hayden Paddon and the Hyundai New Zealand Rally team via the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/paddonrallysport.