Kennard reduced to push starts in drama-fuelled race

Hayden Paddon's co-driver, Blenheim's John Kennard, was pleased with their overall performance in the Skoda Fabia during Brother Rally New Zealand, although the three days certainly weren't without drama.

Paddon and Kennard were the first Kiwi team home, finished 12th overall and won the S2000 class, taking them to the top of the world standings in that division.

Speaking shortly after finishing Sunday's final stage in Auckland, Kennard said: "The first day was terrible. On the second run of stage six, we blew second gear. It was a really tight, twisty piece of stage, all second and third gear going up and down, up and down, and eventually second gear gave way.

"It spread the bits all through the gearbox, and the gearbox was damaged as well. We had two more stages to get back to Auckland. The clutch wouldn't activate at all, and it wouldn't go into sixth gear. When we finally did get it into sixth, it wouldn't come out again. It jammed, but we managed to get back to Auckland without a clutch."

Not having a clutch meant Kennard had to get out each time they stopped at lights and push the car so Paddon could crash start it in first gear.

"The car would only do 125kmh in fifth gear and we were just leaking time, but everybody else in our class had already retired."

There was no such drama on Saturday, Kennard said, with good speed when it mattered and no mechanical problems. In yesterday's final stages, a wheel ripped off a rim early in the morning stage, which held them up for a short time, but they quickly got back into the groove and were quick enough to be the fastest Kiwi combination.

Kennard said that by having such a big lead early on in their S2000 class, they were able to try out a few things on the car and almost used part of the rally as a test drive, changing springs and other settings.

"We haven't got a lot of budget and we can't do a lot of testing. We learnt something from the whole thing."

Kennard returns home to Blenheim today, then next week heads overseas for Rally Finland at the end of next month as the duo chase their second successive world title, having won the production class last year.

The Marlborough Express