Motorsport: Where in the world are our drivers

By Eric Thompson

It was a bumper weekend for New Zealand drivers competing in Europe and America.

Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard challenged hard for a podium place at the Geko Ypres Rally in Belgium but came unstuck after hitting a tree. Picture / Honza Fronek
Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard challenged hard for a podium place at the Geko Ypres Rally in Belgium but came unstuck after hitting a tree. Picture / Honza Fronek

Drama in Belgium

Former Production World Rally Champion Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard were on pace for a podium finish at their first tilt at the specialist tarmac Ypres Rally in Belgium.

The pair were in contention the entire rally, even winning a stage on day one, only to come unstuck towards the end of the rally, crashing out on stage 14.

On wet and muddy roads, Paddon went into a corner on the final stage a little too hot and the rear started to overtake the front. The car slid into a tree and while there wasn't too much damage, it was enough to end their rally.

"I am now really looking forward to getting back on my preferred surface of gravel in Finland in early August, where we will bounce back," says Paddon.

Great pace but no cigar

GP2 driver Mitch Evans didn't get the birthday present he was hoping for at round five of his series. Evans was in good form in wet qualifying, finishing inside the top 10 to start eighth on the grid.

The Aucklander, who turned 19 on the weekend, was in second place behind Sam Bird when he exceeded the pit lane speed limit because of a faulty pit limiter on his car and was given a 10-second stop-and-go-penalty, dropping him to 19th.

"Our car was very quick and without the problem we could have won," said Evans.

The second race of the weekend saw Evans 18th on the grid but more electrical dramas caused him to start last. He put in some useful lap times and managed to bring the car in 14th. His next race is this weekend at the Nurburgring circuit.

Tough day in office

Richie Stanaway continues to impress in his rookie season in the Porsche Supercup. The young Tauranga man finished inside the top 10 in his first two races to lead the rookie standings and sit fifth on the table.

His impressive record in his first season in a car with a roof continued when he qualified 11th at Silverstone, a track he's never been to before. After reaching a race high of eighth, Stanaway slipped back to bring the DAMS car across the line in 13th.

"We just couldn't get the car to work how it should. At speed it wouldn't turn in and so made it really hard to go quick. I was hoping to hang on to eighth but just couldn't and also got clipped by some passing cars," said Stanaway.

Hartley on podium

Rising star Brendon Hartley spent 10-plus hours howling around the Circuit de la Sarthe in France at the Le Mans 24 Hours before heading straight to Watkins Glen, New York, for round eight of the Rolex Grand-Am series. Bad weather meant none of the Daytona Prototype cars could qualify, so the starting grid was determined by the points table with Hartley and his co-drivers lining up 13th on the grid.

Hartley and his co-drivers drove a measured race to come home third and bag a handful of points. "The car's the best I've experienced so far in the series and the track is one of the best I've seen in the US," said Hartley.

Halliday challenged

Matt Halliday completed a challenging weekend in the third round of the Blancpain Endurance Series at France's Paul Ricard circuit. Halliday and co-drivers piloted their Audi R8 LMS GT3 to 21st out of 62 and 13th in the class. The Kiwi drove the final stint of the race but contact by a Lamborghini damaged the rear suspension, seriously hindering their progress.

"The Audis didn't have much chance on this type of circuit," said Halliday. "We had reasonably good race pace. My lap times were competitive with the other Audi drivers, which is probably all I can ask for under the circumstances."

- NZ Herald

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