Hayden Paddon racing way to top of world

TOP FINISH: Hayden Paddon at Rally New Zealand.
TOP FINISH: Hayden Paddon at Rally New Zealand.

Geraldine's Hayden Paddon leads the Super 2000 World Rally Championships after finishing first in his category at Rally New Zealand.

The win puts Paddon 19 points clear of Craig Breen, with both drivers having completed three rallies, with the Irishman electing not to come to New Zealand and Paddon missing the first round at Monte Carlo.

They will renew their rivalry in Finland next month and look set to fight out the championship.

The 25-year-old also finished a creditable 12th overall against the best drivers on the globe and with co-driver John Kennard were the first Kiwis home.

Despite a winning margin of over 33 minutes to second-placed SWRC finisher P-G Andersson, Paddon admitted to having hoped to achieve more at his home event.

"We were out to show our pace on roads we know well, so it was particularly frustrating for the rear suspension to break in the first stage [yesterday morning].

"It's like a yo-yo in the back."

Paddon had to slow right down but the crew fixed the problem in the service break.

"We were about to try and chase down Manfred Stohl in a WRC Ford, who started the day just in front of us in 11th place overall."

"Although we brought it home and scored maximum points, not only did we have the suspension issue, I made a silly mistake in stage 20, hitting a bank, spinning and puncturing a tyre. So we lost time there." But Paddon felt the overall result was good.

"I'm very pleased for everyone who's worked so hard that we are now leading the championship, but I was hoping for more.

"I feel the best is yet to come with John and me in the Skoda.

"The car's not bad at all, but it's a fine balance to get the set-up right. We'll do more testing and put in a lot more hard work."

Paddon said he was aiming to go hard in Finland in July.

"Finland is a very special rally and it's crucial to have absolute confidence in the car."

Paddon nevertheless put in some solid times on yesterday's final seven stages with one top 10 time and two 12th-fastest, mixing it with the WRC competitors.

He was also humbled by the sheer number of fans cheering for them. "From that perspective, it's been an amazing event."

The Timaru Herald