WRC: Paddon vows to return stronger
Hayden Paddon says his fourth place finish at WRC Rally Australia -- his best result at the Australian event -- ranks as small consolation.
A podium place to close out the 2016 season had looked likely until a puncture early in Sunday's final leg cost the Kiwi flyer almost a minute.
Paddon initially slipped to fifth following the puncture but finished the rally with a flourish and reclaimed fourth by overhauling Hyundai team-mate Dani Sordo.
"We just ran a little bit wide on a corner and it popped the tyre off the rim," Paddon said.
The incident happened early in the 31.94km Bucca stage and saw Paddon drive more than 20km as the tyre shredded itself and tore away part of the rear door and wheel arch from his Hyundai i20.
"It happened at 8km and only a few ks later it completely delaminated. I tried to drive through as best as we could on three wheels.
"Obviously we're a bit gutted but these things happen in motorsport and you have accept it, learn from it and move on."
Paddon had started the Sunday sprint in third position with hopes of challenging the leading Volkswagen duo of Andreas Mikkelsen and Sebastien Ogier.
He said fourth place was a small consolation prize.
"We had our eyes set on at least a podium. Okay, it looks like the Volkswagens probably had a bit much for us today but we were at least going to give it a shot and we weren't going to go down without trying.
"All in all it hasn't been a bad weekend. We've shown good progress and there's still a lot of lessons we can learn to come back stronger in the future."
Paddon said the support from hundreds of Kiwi fans with New Zealand and silver fern flags lining the dusty Coffs Coast stages had been one of the season highlights.
"It's been amazing but it probably makes it a little bit more gutting as well because it would have been nice to get on the podium for them," he said.
A 110-strong "army" of Paddon fans followed last weekend's Australian event.
"It's amazing to have so many Kiwis over here. There are more Kiwis here than Australians so that just emphasises that the rally should be on the other side of the Tasman," he said.
"The flags are everywhere through the stages. It gives you a buzz and they enjoy it as well."
Driving for the Hyundai Motorsport squad, Paddon has completed his first full 13-round campaign in the World Rally Championship by taking fourth place in Driver's standings.
The pinnacle of his year was a maiden victory in Argentina back in April along with podium finishes in Sweden and Poland.
He has completed the season with a string of fourth placings in Spain, Britain and now Australia and remains with Hyundai Motorsport in 2017 for the second year of a three-year contact.