Kiwis Hayden Paddon and John Kennard have secured fifth place overall at Rally Finland on Sunday (EEST), after a tight final day battle with Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Thierry Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul.
New Zealand’s top rallying pairing finished the eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship with a determined flourish, setting the second-fastest stage time on each of Sunday’s four special stages. In fact, their combined time for the final 34.20 kilometres of competition were fastest of all competitors, but they couldn’t quite catch Neuville, finishing just 2.3 seconds behind the Belgium who took fourth place after both Hyundai drivers benefited from Ott Tanak crashing out of the rally. Neuville was, in turn, just 4.6 seconds off third place, highlighted the close battle for the final podium position which went to Craig Breen, while Kris Meeke took victory from Jari-Matti Latvala.
Paddon also took two bonus points for second place in the power stage. He’s now fourth place on the WRC drivers’ championship leader-board with 84 points.
Of his seventh appearance at the event dubbed the Finnish Grand Prix, Paddon said: “A difficult rally but we had a good day today. We were the fastest overall today and to get in the top five was good. It’s obviously been trying with the road cleaning over the first two days and we lost a bit too much time earlier on in the rally. We gave it our all but we’ve struggled with the car in the slippery conditions. But considering everything, it’s not a bad result. It was a close fight with Thierry and I’ve really enjoyed these fantastic stages It’s good points and we’re closing in on the guys at the front of the championship.
“Now we look forward. We have four tarmac rallies in a row so that’s going to be a very challenging couple of months ahead. We use these rallies as an opportunity to learn as much as we can and to progress, and try to get as close to the front as we can on tarmac as well.”
Dutchman Kevin Abbring, in the third New Generation i20 WRC car, claimed his first top-ten finish of the season, so overall it was a positive final day for Hyundai Motorsport with a stage 1-2 in SS22 and in the Power Stage, and both Neuville and Paddon inside the top-five. The result gives Hyundai Motorsport a healthy haul of manufacturer points and helps to solidify the team’s second position in the WRC manufacturers’ championship.
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “We’ve had a better final day than the rest of the rally, that’s for sure. There’s no hiding from the fact we have had a challenging weekend so to take two stage 1-2s today, including the power stage was a positive way to end the rally. Thierry and Hayden have been involved in a close battle for most of the weekend, which was interesting to watch. Kevin and Seb did everything we expected of them. It was a big task to come to Rally Finland at short notice. They have acquitted themselves very professionally and fully deserve their top-ten finish. We have had a generally reliable weekend with the New Generation i20 WRCs. We just need to understand why we couldn’t get more out of the car on these stages. There are just a few weeks before we compete in Rallye Deutschland, which will be a special event for the whole team - and I’m confident we will come back fighting.”
The 18-21 August running of ADAC Rallye Deutschland will be Paddon and Kennard’s fourth time at what is widely recognised as the most difficult tarmac event of the WRC calendar.