Hayden Paddon blitzes Rally Otago

Geraldine’s Hayden Paddon set a blistering pace with his old co-driver John Kennard as they dominated the weekend’s Rally Otago. Paddon and Kennard, from Blenheim, set new stage records on all of the 17 special stages in their Hyundai i20 AP4+ rally car.

Image: Geoff Ridder

The pair finished the two-day, 281.29-kilometre event a whopping 8 minutes 27.7 seconds ahead of second-placed Ben Hunt.Hayden Paddon, left, and co-driver John Kennard during a service break during the 2018 Rally Otago which they dominated.

The South Cantabrian’s dominance of a domestic New Zealand Rally Championship event was not unexpected, but the World Rally Championship driver doesn’t take it all for granted.

“The win is great for the car and great for Hyundai. I’m back in the rally groove, making pace notes, listening to pace notes, preparation, and all that side of things,” Paddon said in a press release.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s WRC or NZRC, the way you prepare is very similar and important to be doing on a regular basis.

“The whole purpose of the NZRC campaign is to keep my eye in and to further develop the car. Regardless of what any other competitors are doing, our priority this weekend was to focus on our own stages and I know when I’ve done a good or a bad stage – I kept my focus on that.

“The New Zealand Rally Championship generally is in a really good place. The others did a really good job – Ben, Emma [Gilmour], Dylan [Turner], Matt [Summerfield] – they were all very close and doing a good job, and the competition between them is very fierce. They’ll be faster again in Whangarei in just three weeks, so they keep enough pressure on us so that we have to keep our wits about us.”

Paddon Rallysport invested many hours in further development work on their car prior to Otago.

“The car’s working well, it’s enjoyable to drive and we didn’t really have any problems this weekend so we have a good base to work from now; just some small refinements we’ll now do before Whangarei, but in general it’s working really well.”

The Otago Rally is well known for its fast, flowing, gravel special stages – the stages on which Paddon honed his talent behind the wheel. The event’s mid-April timing bought rain and temperatures around zero degrees Celsius just prior to its running, conditions that Paddon described as quite cold, but reasonable for rallying.

“There wasn’t much gravel on the stages, but because it had been wet before rally and then dried out with the wind, they were fairly compacted and didn’t give you the best grip, a bit skittery.

“The stages on this rally are of a similar character, all very fast and you need a lot of commitment. In that respect they’re very good and it’s great fun,” he says, having set his fastest average speed on a stage (SS6) of 135.89 kmh.

Paddon said he enjoyed having Kennard back in the car for this event.

“We were straight back into the groove and it’s great to work with John, but unfortunately he won’t be with us for Whangarei [due to the timing of Kennard’s hip operation being brought forward].”

Paddon’s next event is the May 5-6 International Rally of Whangarei and then he’s back to Europe for his next WRC event, Rally Portugal.

South Canterbury fans are set to see Paddon in action on June 23 when the NZRC visits his backyard for round four

Source: Stuff NZ