Hayden Paddon and John Kennard have secured fourth place in Rally Poland, the second consecutive top four finish for the Kiwis in their 2015 World Rally Championship season.
Following the fast and challenging legs on Friday and Saturday, Paddon and Kennard went into Sunday’s short leg with a strong hold on fifth place. With two runs of the same 14.60 km stage to complete, Paddon and Kennard had a 19.4 second margin to Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville in sixth. Ahead of them on the leader-board, there was a difference of 36.6 seconds to fourth-placed Jari-Matti Latvala.
The New Zealanders stayed focused on finishing the rally in a top five position, seeking to back up their second place finish in Sardinia in June.
Hayden Paddon and John Kennard in action during WRC Rally of Poland. Picture/Vettas Media.
They started Sunday tenth on the road – the start order for the final day being the reverse of the rally classification – to tackle the final 29.20 competitive kilometres of this high speed event. Neuville tried to apply pressure, rolled his Hyundai i20 WRC, but was able to carry on.
Paddon delivered yet another top five stage time and, combined with Neuville’s slower time, then had a 31.1 second buffer over his team-mate going into the repeated run for the final stage.
A seventh-fastest time on the final stage was all Paddon and Kennard needed to secure fifth place. But then came the news that fourth-placed Latvala, in his intense battle with Ott Tänak for third, had hit a tree on the stage and damaged his radiator. Latvala worked hard to repair his car sufficiently to make it to the finish, but a 40 second penalty for checking in late worked in Paddon’s favour, elevating the New Zealander to fourth.
“To come away with a top five result is very pleasing to follow on from what we did in Sardinia, and while I’m sorry for Jari-Matti, to finish fourth was exactly what we wanted,” said Paddon.
“It wasn’t the most straightforward rally in terms of finding a rhythm and confidence within the car on the fast gravel but we have persevered and can be satisfied. Obviously, there’s always room for improvement and things we can do to go faster, but considering the new routes on this rally things have gone well. The team has worked hard and a four-car finish is a good result for everyone.
“It confirms that in quite contrasting conditions – Sardinia being the slowest gravel event of the year and Poland being the fastest – that we can be competitive up the front and gives us even more confidence moving forward. The level of competition here was very close and, among the WRC cars, there was only one retirement all weekend.
“Okay, there are still things we need to keep working on and keep improving, but we’ve made good steps in the last 12 months. Our goal was to back up the result in Sardinia by staying calm, driving fast and consistently and making sure we got to the finish. And what’s what we did.”
With this fourth place in Poland, Paddon has moved from ninth place to eighth on the WRC drivers’ championship points table.
Paddon and Kennard were also the leading Hyundai crew all weekend as the Hyundai Motorsport team registered an impressive four-car finish, the first time that the team has entered four cars into a WRC event. Belgians Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul held on to finish sixth.
Spanish duo Dani Sordo and Marc Martí finished comfortably inside the top ten after a battling weekend, while Kevin Abbring and Sebastian Marshall, in the #10 Hyundai i20 WRC for the first of four scheduled WRC events this season, enjoyed a trouble-free end to their rally.
“To be the first Hyundai at the finish is also pleasing. However, it is more amazing to see all four cars from the team finish,” Paddon said.
The next WRC event is Rally Finland, one of Paddon’s favourites and one which will mark two significant milestones for co-driver John Kennard. The July 30 to August 2 running of Rally Finland is the 30th anniversary of Kennard’s first WRC co-drive and his 50th WRC event.
“We’re really looking forward to Rally Finland,” adds Paddon. “It’s a rally that really suits us a lot more and I think we can take some good information from this weekend to continue improving and to prepare for Finland where more fast routes await us.”
Before Rally Finland, Paddon returns briefly to New Zealand to make a guest appearance for Auckland motor vehicle dealership Winger Hyundai at New Zealand’s largest automotive and motorsport show, the CRC Speedshow, at the ASB Showgrounds on July 18 and 19.