Motorsport Wrap: Paddon and Evans are back
Two Kiwis score podiums in Japan and Poland, while another returns to the victory circle
For more than one of our home-grown motorsport stars, this weekend just gone was one of redemption ...
Paddon takes tight third place at Rally Poland
Photo / Timo Anis
After the emotional peak of a maiden win in Argentina was followed by twin disasters at Portugal and Italy, Hyundai Motorsport's Hayden Paddon made a welcome return to the podium at Rally Poland — round seven of the 2016 World Rally Championship.
Paddon seemed a satisfied entity for the entire weekend. Having placed himself second after Special Stage two, he never ducked off the podium over the duration of the rally. By the second half of day three, it looked unlikely that Paddon and co-driver Jonathan Kennard had anything to offer for the leading pair of Ott Tänak and Andreas Mikkelsen. But, the lack of pressure was something the driver seemed to relish.
Hyundai stablemate Thierry Neuville came close to snatching third from Paddon in the dying stages, but couldn't seal the deal on the closing power stage — Paddon trumping him by a mere eight tenths of a second. The result jumps Paddon to third in the title standings.
This week, the heartache was reserved for Tänak; leading the majority of the rally only for a puncture to starve him of what would have been a maiden WRC win on the penultimate hurdle — handing the win to Mikkelsen.
Mitch Evans back on top of the podium
Photo / Sam Bloxham, GP2 Series Media
His joining with Campos Racing in the off season seemed like a perfect fit for Mitch Evans, but his GP2 Series campaign stared in a rocky fashion with two non-points finishes at round one.
However, with some slick strategy and a little bit of help from mother nature, Evans and teammate Sean Gelael were able to seal a memorable 1–2 at the category's feature race at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.
The sprint race wasn't quite as rosy, Evans finishing eighth and last on the points-scoring list. But, the weekend was enough to power him to a very impressive second in the championship standings, with seven more rounds still to go in 2016.
Jono Lester makes the most of GT Asia debut
Photo / GT Asia Series
Reunited with his beloved Porsche marque, GT ace Jono Lester ran wild on debut in the GT Asia Series, which raced at Okayama in Japan over the weekend.
Racing with GruppeM racing and the team's regular driver Tim Sugden, it didn't take long for Lester be in his element — qualifying third for race two in the team's new Porsche 991 GT3-R.
But, it was in race one and from ninth on the grid that Lester and Sugden scored their best finish of the weekend. Taking over the car mid-race, Lester was able to climb all the way from 10th to finish third — helping the team achieve their strongest result of the season. Third was eventually complemented by sixth in race two, a pair of results to be proud of as teams continue to note the Porsche's lack of performance next to its more fancied GT Asia rivals from Bentley, Audi, and co.
David Holder takes maiden New Zealand Rally Championship
Photo / Geoff Ridder
On the same weekend that Hayden Paddon got back on the horse, the Mitsubishi Evo that helped him take those first steps to stardom helped David Holder and Jason Farmer win the Gisbourne Rally, and subsequently the New Zealand Rally Championship — with one event in hand.
Holder's 2016 campaign started to look dangerous after he took his maiden NZRC rally win at the International Rally of Whangarei earlier in the year. And with several of his key series rivals, Emma Gilmour, Ben Hunt, and Sloan Cox included, all falling foul of various issues across various rallies, Holder's second win of the season has proven enough to take home the title silverware.
The rally driver has already nodded towards the potential for an AP4-chassis to make its way into his 2017 campaign (a move that would align his technology with what the likes of Glenn Inkster, Andrew Hawkeswood, and soon Greg Murphy will use). More new machinery in parc fermé will only further grow our domestic rallying championship in stature.
Mike Young on the pace in Japan
Photo / Cusco
And still the rally news keeps coming. Asia-Pacific Rally Championship regular Mike Young got to have a play with a current-generation Subaru Impreza WRX STi, while making his debut in the Japanese Rally Championship for the Cusco Subaru team.
Japanese rallying legend Toshi Arai took the overall win, while Young finished sixth after an eventful rally. He had been in a position to challenge Osamu Fukunaga for fifth, but lost more than 30 seconds on a single stage, sealing a sixth-place result for the Cusco pilot.
Read more about Hayden Paddon's podium: Update 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7
Read more about Mitch Evans' Austrian run: Race one / race two
Read more about Jono Lester's Porsche success: Race one / race two
Read more about Holder's NZRC title win
Read more about Mike Young's Japanese debut: Day one / day two