Motorsport: Organisers didn't have NZ flag for Paddon
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Rally Italy Sardinia organisers were almost left red-faced for not having a New Zealand flag on hand following Hayden Paddon historic second-placing overnight.
Rally organisers obviously weren't expected Paddon to finish on the podium and didn't have a flag ready for the podium presentation.
It wasn't until a New Zealand fan came to the rescue to ensure Paddon and co-driver John Kennard were properly represented on the surrounding flag poles.
Double world rally champion Sebastien Ogier finished more than three minutes ahead of Paddon for his fourth win in six events.
Paddon and Kennard marked their first anniversary with Hyundai Motorsport by creating a double podium finish with Belgium team-mates Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul for the World Rally Championship's newest manufacturer.
ddon and Kennard led the rally from the start of Friday's action - the first New Zealanders to lead an overseas WRC event - and only relinquished that lead on Saturday afternoon's loop after leading the rally outright for 15 stages. They delivered Sunday's results exactly to plan, securing their fourth stage win of this rally and safely getting to the finish despite some niggles with their Hyundai i20 WRC car.
Paddon described his first-ever WRC podium finish - the best result by a New Zealander in an overseas WRC rally - as a dream result.
"To finish on the podium is an absolutely amazing feeling. Words can't really do justice to how I'm feeling right now," Paddon said.
"We had a strong weekend from the start but we just tried to take each stage as it came without looking too much at the timesheets. We knew it would get tougher once we lost the start position advantage so the fact we could hold our own against the World Champion was just fantastic."
"We had our issues on Saturday afternoon, and thought that was the rally over, but thankfully we pushed on through, kept digging deep and made it through the Sunday in a comfortable second. Considering our buffer to Thierry in third, we took today very easily, not taking any risks and we have a debut podium as a reward.
"It's been great to have such support from back home and I'm sorry they've had some late nights. I hope it's been as worthwhile for them as it has been for us. We couldn't have done this without the team, so my thanks to everyone at Hyundai Motorsport, too. Let's hope this is the start of more results to come."
For Kennard, this was the second time he'd stepped onto a WRC podium, the previous occasion being 27 years ago when he co-drove for the late Malcolm Stewart in an Audi Quattro coupe to secure third place in the 1988 running of Rally New Zealand, a round of the WRC drivers' championship that year.
When asked about the pressure of leading the rally for 15 stages, Blenheim-based Kennard said: "Like Hayden said, a few years ago we went back to the mentality of doing our own thing. We do the best we can do, and if that's right or wrong, we can do something about it. We did our thing and it happened to turn out quite well."
Results of the Rally of Sardinia, the 4th event of the 2015 World Rally Championship:
1. Sebastien Ogier, France.
2. Hayden Paddon, New Zealand.
3. Thierry Neuville, Belgium.4.
Elfyn Evans, Wales.5.
Mads Ostberg, Norway.6. Jari-Matti Latvala, Finland.7. Yuriy Protasov, Ukraine.8. Paolo Andreucci, Italy.9. Jan Kopecky, Czech Republic.10. Khalid Al-Qassimi, United Arab Emirates.
World Drivers Standings(After 6 of 13 events):
1. Sebastien Ogier, France, 133 points.
2. Mads Ostberg, Norway, 67.
3. Andreas Mikkelsen, Norway, 64.
4. Jari-Matti Latvala, Finland, 56.
5. Elfyn Evans, Wales, 53.
6. Thierry Neuville, Belgium, 50.
7. Kris Meeke, Northern Ireland, 47.
8. Dani Sordo, Spain, 38.
9. Hayden Paddon, New Zealand, 32.
10.Martin Prokop, Czech Republic, 27.