Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard have marked their first anniversary with Hyundai Motorsport with a podium finish at the Rally Italy Sardinia.
Paddon secured a history-making, career-best second place, describing his first WRC podium finish — the best result by a New Zealander in an overseas WRC rally — as a dream result.
Paddon’s Hyundai i20 was fitted with the paddle-shift gearbox system for the first time.
“Surprisingly, that’s made a very big difference, but we didn’t have much testing before the event,” Paddon said. “The first time I used the paddle was at shakedown, and a couple of times in the super special on Thursday night I went for the lever ...
“In a lot of corners with the paddles, I’m using the gears more and really feeling the torque — that’s where the improvement is coming.
“But, you know, I never thought, to be honest, about the result, it was just one stage at a time. We wanted to go out and do our own thing. I don’t think we would have kept Seb [Sebastien Ogier] behind in a straight fight — I think he had something in the tank — but I was a bit surprised when we were still there on Saturday lunchtime.”
In fact, Paddon led the rally after the first two days.
For Paddon’s co-driver John Kennard, this was the second time he’d stepped on to a WRC podium, the previous occasion being 27 years ago when he co-drove for the late Malcolm Stewart to secure third place in the 1988 Rally New Zealand, a round of the WRC that year.
Paddon and Kennard’s result surprised rally organisers, who weren’t expecting to need a New Zealand flag. A quick ask-around the assembled fans saw a New Zealand flag handed over to ensure the star Kiwis were properly represented.