Paddon pays big price for mistake

OUT: Hayden Paddon may not compete in Rally Spain.
OUT: Hayden Paddon may not compete in Rally Spain.

Stuck in a ditch, Hayden Paddon watched helplessly as his dreams of winning the FIA Super 2000 world rally championship evaporated.

A momentary error while leading left Paddon and co-driver John Kennard stranded in Rallye de France yesterday.

With it went any chance he had of winning the championship.

A bitterly disappointed Paddon said the smallest of driving errors ended his goal of cruising through the final six stages.

"We were taking it really easy all day in the tricky muddy conditions and taking absolutely no risks."

Running slightly wide on a muddy, tight right-hand first gear corner Paddon's rear wheel touched the grass.

"This then sucked the car into the grass-filled ditch where we were stuck. While we had two wheels of the car still on the road, we just could not get the car out.”

"This is the first mistake that I have made like this in the past three years - and it came at the completely wrong time.

"As always there are lessons to be learned and I hope that we will come back faster and stronger."

Irishman Craig Breen won the French title and with one round left Paddon has no chance of beating Breen, Swede P-G Andersson or Saudi Yazeed Al Rajhi, who are in a three-way fight for the championship title in Spain next month.

Breen leads the championship with 93 points, two ahead of Andersson, with Al Rajhi on 73 and Paddon out of striking range on 68.

Entering the final day Paddon had a lead of nearly two minutes over Breen and stayed out in front until the afternoon's first repeated stage, special stage 20.

Breen said it had been an "up and down rally and we're extremely lucky with what happened to Hayden".

"He was so unlucky because it was so easy to go off where he did.”

Paddon's title pursuit had been dogged by problems. He had car troubles in the previous two events in Britain and Finland, where he only scored six points, after making a flying start to the season.

He may not contest the season-ending Rally Spain, given he is out of contention for the championship.

Paddon said a decision would be made by his management team, probably this week.

They have to weigh up the monetary costs with the benefits of gaining further experience and another opportunity to impress the right people.

The Timaru Herald