Rally of Whangārei winner Hayden Paddon says Northland's roads rank among the best in the world after he took out the race for the fifth time on Sunday.
Paddon, with co-driver Samantha Gray in their Hyundai i20 AP4, stretched their early lead to an over four-minute winning margin at the weekend's ENEOS International Rally of Whangārei.
"I just wanted to get out and enjoy it," Paddon said.
"They are some of the nicest stages in the world and I really wanted to get my teeth into it.
"I won the stage records that were up for grabs this weekend so we've ticked all the boxes despite the difficulties – the team did a great job."
The 264km event was also the second round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) after the Rally of Otago, which was also won by Paddon. He said the weekend's performance was a great effort from his co-driver and other team members.
"[Gray] has done a great job in the car; it's a great result for the team and maximum points again for the APRC so it's perfect," Paddon said.
The rally also functioned as the second round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) with second overall being Ben Hunt and Tony Rawstorn in a Subaru Impreza. Third overall and second APRC car was Dave Holder and Jason Farmer in the Holden Barina AP4.
Sunday's leg of the competition used roads south of Whangārei. While the cars struggled for grip and swept aside the loose gravel in the morning loop of four stages, typically the afternoon second run was a time of consolidation.
"We are pretty happy with the whole weekend," Holder said.
"We are sure there is more in the car with what Hayden can show in his pace – plus I know there is more in us so we will keep cracking on."
Third APRC car was Andrew Hawkeswood and Jeff Cress in the Mazda 2 AP4, with all six international title challengers making it to the finish.
While the ceremonial finish at the Town Basin was in sunlight, several teams never made it. American motorsport phenomenon Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino retired again in their Ford Escort Cosworth, completing only one of Sunday's stages.
The APRC series now travels to Japan for the first round of the Asia Cup, being held in the central region of Gunma. The Montre Rally runs from June 6-9.
Local competitors have a four-week break until the third round of the NZRC, which returns to the South Island for the Lonestar Canterbury Rally, June 2.
Overall top 10 placings:
Position (Car no.) Driver/Co-driver, Car: Time
1 (1) Hayden Paddon/Samantha Gray, Hyundai i20 AP4: 2:40:28.5
2 (7) Ben Hunt/Tony Rawstorn, Subaru WRX Sti: +4:16.7
3 (4) David Holder/Jason Farmer, Holden Barina: +0:24.1
4 (11) Josh Marston/Andrew Graves, Holden Barina AP4: +2:33.4
5 (3) Andrew Hawkeswood/Jeff Cress, Mazda 2 AP4: +2:28.4
6 (2) Mike Young/Malcolm Read, Toyota Yaris: +1:32.9
7 (24) Dylan Thomson/Amy Hudson, Subaru Impreza WRX Sti: +0:20.5
8 (5) Jack Hawkeswood/Alex Parkin, Mazda 2 AP4: +0:36.3
9 (35) Matt Adams/Lisa Hudson, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9: +2:37.3
10 (20) Marcus van Klink/Dave Neil, Mazda RX8: +1:41.6