About 20,000 dedicated and new racing fans flocked to the Auckland Domain yesterday to see world rally championship drivers make two circuits on a slippery bitumen course - hurdling speed bumps and reaching speeds of up to 160km/h.
A super special stage of the Rally of New Zealand, the free event was a crowd-pleaser with plenty of backfiring engines and squealing tyres.
It was a patriotic crowd.
Despite the presence of overseas stars such as Sebastien Loeb, Mikko Hirvonen, Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg, the loudest applause was given to South Island driver Hayden Paddon, in just his third time in a Super 2000 World Rally Championship.
Paddon and co-driver John Kennard, in a Skoda Fabia, went on to win their division, capping off a recent victory in Portugal and the world production class last year.
Paddon said it was a "tough rally" with some problems to overcome.
First placing overall in the World Rally Championship section went to Frenchman Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena, making it Loeb's 72nd victory in the rally championship.
It was a popular win, but the New Zealander Paddon and American Ken Block drew the most admiration from younger fans.
Kelston resident Steven Reid and his son Layne, 8, ran two city streets to follow Block's car as it entered the rally base at Viaduct Events Centre.
Layne said Block was his favourite because of the "drifting and jumping and for being the founder of DC Shoes".
The Auckland Council company which is charged with boosting Auckland's economy through major events was a sponsor of the rally.
Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development events manager Jennah Wootten said Ateed was trying to gain New Zealand a place in the rally championships every year instead of every two years.By Wayne Thompson Email Wayne