Crushed: Hayden Paddon triumphs Rally Otago in style
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Hayden Paddon’s campaign to capture his fourth New Zealand rally title is in top gear as he continued to sweep the board of stage wins at Rally Otago today.
The Wanaka-based WRC star built on the 4min 45secs lead he established on Saturday and won all eight of the Sunday stages as the rally travelled north of Dunedin to the fast, switchback gravel road stages of the Palmerston, Dunback and Middlemarch regions.
Driving his Kiwi-built Hyundai i20 AP4 car, Paddon’s stage-winning streak stretched the final winning margin to 8min 27.7secs over 2015 national champion Ben Hunt (Auckland). Hunt was the closest rival to Paddon on five of today’s eight stages on his way to a clear second place in his Subaru WRX STI [pictured below].
Rangiora’s Matt Summerfield completed the podium with his Mitsubishi Mirage AP4+, trailing Hunt by 2m 34.9secs
The Otago event was Paddon’s second rally of this year after a fifth-place finish at WRC Rally Sweden in February.
"It’s crazy to think it’s April and this is only my second rally of the year,’’ said Paddon.
"So it’s been a valuable weekend to focus on driving and it’s always fantastic to rally on the exceptional roads in Otago.
"We didn’t need to push quite as hard today as we had on the first day but I’m happy with the car and the improvements the team has made since last season.’’
Paddon’s hopes of regaining the national title he last won in 2013 rest of high-scoring performances in the five - of six – championship events that fit around his WRC campaign with Hyundai Motorsport.
Fourth place went to Christchurch’s Josh Marston, who moved up the order from seventh overnight with a solid second day effort in his Holden Barina AP4.
A puncture in the 37km final stage proved costly for Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour (Suzuki Swift) who lost about 13 minutes and tumbled down the order from third place overall to finish 20th.
Auckland’s Dylan Turner retired his Audi S1 AP4 car from fifth place with three stages remaining due to damage sustained from clipping a concrete post.
Te Aroha’s Graham Featherstone (Mitsubishi) had a consistent run to claim fifth place while Aucklander Raana Horan (Mitsubishi), driving in only his second rally, continued to make a rapid transition from Offroad Racing to rallying and climbed the order from 31st seeding to finish sixth.
Kaikoura’s Regan Ross (Ford Escort RS1800) won the Otago Classic Rally and finished eighth in the outright standings. The Volkswagen Golf GTi of Christchurch’s Deane Buist introduced a competitive front-wheel-drive contender to the classic rally scene with a strong 10th overall and runner-up honours in the Classic Rally.
Ross took the Classic victory with a 1m 41.0secs margin over Buist and Rangiora’s John Silcock (Mazda RX-7) was third.
Norway’s Mads Ostberg - the Otago event’s international guest driver - had more early driveline problems in his Ford Escort on Sunday but after repairs he re-joined the rally to post four stage wins in the Classic category.
Round two of the NZ Rally Championship is the International Rally of Whangarei over the May 5-6 weekend.