Motorsport: Paddon disposes of rivals

By Eric Thompson

Former production world rally champion sets 12 stage records for healthy lead in NZ champs.

As the dust began to settle on the seventh running of the International Rally of Whangarei, New Zealand's former production world rally champion Hayden Paddon put the Asia Pacific Rally Championship and the New Zealand Rally Championship contestants to the sword.

Along the way he set 12 stage records and claimed moral victory.

He and co-driver John Kennard were rarely threatened on either day and finished a comfortable three minutes 29.8 seconds ahead of Finnish driver Esapekka Lappi and fellow Kiwi Richard Mason.

Because of technical rules and eligibilities, Paddon did not feature in the APRC championship, but won the NZRC side of things and leads the domestic championship by a healthy 26 points from Mason and Ben Hunt.

"At the end of the day we're here to win rallies and go as fast as we can," said Paddon. "We had a good battle with Richard for a few stages and we were able to compare our times with the guys in the APRC Skodas [Lappi and Gaurav Gill] we'll be up against in Europe."

As Paddon is not contesting the APRC series, it was the Finn and co-driver Janne Ferm who leave with maximum points and a solid start to their APRC championship.

"I really enjoyed the rally and the roads are very similar to those in Finland," said Lappi. "I could not have had a better start to the championship winning the round here. I'm very satisfied."

Mason and co-driver wife Sara's hate-hate relationship with Whangarei continued with another hiccup when the steering wheel came loose during yesterday's stage 13, putting paid to any challenge he could take to Paddon.

"We've had bad luck just about every time we've come here. We're seriously thinking about taking a holiday next year and missing the event entirely," said Mason wryly.

The only Kiwi doing the entire APRC series this year is youngster Michael Young, with co-driver Daniel Willson, who were handed the keys to a Toyota Vitz to race. This is the Japanese manufacturer's first foray into international rallying for a number of years.

They finished third overall in the APRC (for drivers doing the whole series), were the first two-wheel-drive APRC car home and first in APRC junior cup - a good weekend's work.

"We've done pretty well on our first outing in the Toyota, and there were a lot of people in Japan watching how we got on. We're very happy with the weekend," said Young.

Emma Gilmour's change of workhorse - Subaru to Suzuki - is still a work in progress. She and co-driver Claire Mole suffered an early setback on the first day of rallying when the steering arm broke, putting paid to their day.

Yesterday they set off with renewed vigour until a puncture brought a heart-in-the-mouth moment before the service break. The day's problems were further compounded when a CV joint let go and ended their rally.

The next round of the NZRC is the Daybreaker Rally in Wairarapa on June 29.

NZRC championship

1. Hayden Paddon 88
2. Richard Mason 62
3. Ben Hunt 39
4. Chris West 24
5. Matt van Tuinen 23
6. Matt Summerfield 17
7. Andrew Hawkeswood 11.

- NZ Herald

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