Paddon reclaims New Zealand Rally Championship title

Hayden Paddon, 2013 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Champion

A storming and world-class drive by Geraldine’s Hayden Paddon has seen the 26-year-old, and Blenheim based co-driver John Kennard, reclaim the overall Goldstar Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship title following the final round over roads in the Wairarapa.

Wrapping up the six round series Paddon won the Trusthouse Racetech Rally Wairarapa aboard a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 in a time of 1hr12min35.4.

Chasing hard in an all-or-nothing run for the coveted title, runner-up was Masterton based Richard and Sara Mason in a Subaru STi – 13.2 seconds behind after the nine special stages totalling 134.11km.

Third was Timaru’s Chris West and Chris Cobham in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X – 1min10.9 behind and also third in the championship standings.

Held over hard based flowing rural rounds across the Wairarapa, the weather meant thick gravel was a factor for Paddon – who was first car on the road – and dust for those following. Returning to Masterton after the day’s competition that saw 52 of the original 66 starters complete the journey,

“It’s a fantastic feeling to win and be the New Zealand champion – for the third time. It really caps off all the hard work done by the guys throughout the season,” said Paddon.

Although it wasn’t all plain sailing for the new champion, who had to swap roles during the day’s second service to assist in replacing the car’s centre differential: “We had niggling problems in the early stages and ended up losing the front drive so we had to change the centre diff in service. John (Kennard) had to explain to some people that came to see me during the service that I was busy working under the car.”

“There was a lot of gravel on the road so with our problems we were surprised we didn’t lose more time to be honest.”

Taking 25 points for the event win, Paddon came in second fastest to West during the event’s ‘Power Stage’ – that gained West a further five points to Paddon’s four and $500 in cash. Paddon’s total of 129 for the season put him 13 ahead of Mason and a further 32 ahead of West.

Of the trio heading in to today’s finale with a chance of championship glory, the unblemished run ended for Nelson’s Ben Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawstorn on the seventh test: “We were about 2.5km in to the stage when the input shaft broke in the gearbox,” explained Hunt. “That’s rallying I guess although the most gutting thing is to go from the championship lead to now be fourth – by not finishing. We’re not used to not finishing,” he added, recalling his last failure in late 2009. Hunt claimed the junior title – having enough points to stave off Christchurch’s Richard Baddock.

Overtaking fellow Cantabrian Jeff Judd for the BNT Historic Rally title, Deane Buist and co-driver Andrew Bulman finished ninth overall in their Ford Escort RS1800 to win by two points after a hard-fought run. Finishing third for the season, Kaiapoi based and outgoing champion Marcus van Klink again rued what could have been after losing six minutes in the latter half of the day in the Mazda RX7. Judd, and co-driver Malcolm Read finished second for the season in a Ford Escort RS1800 – with 139 points.

It was also a Christchurch score in the modern 2WD category with Josh Marston and Rocky Hudson taking a sizeable lead in the day’s opening stage over Tauranga’s Phil Campbell. Both in identical specification Ford Fiesta R2 cars the pair are rarely separated by single digit seconds and the early advantage kept Campbell on the back-foot for the remainder of the event – handing the title, for FIA Group N 2WD cars, to Marston. Third for the season and finishing 17th for the day was Tauranga’s David Holder and Josh Theobald, in an older generation Ford Fiesta. However it was a different result for the co-driver standings with Venita Fabbro (Phil Campbell car) finishing ahead of Rocky Hudson – who was unable to contest all rounds.

Others to win 2WD titles included Hamilton’s Miles McElwain, who would have expected Christchurch’s Hamish Anderson to overtake his total of 75 points however better on-event performances by Auckland’s Dave Strong and Palmerston North’s Tony McConachy meant Anderson fell short of the win by a solitary point. An uncontested run by Pukekohe’s David Ralph allowed him to secure his season objective of winning in the newly established Gull Rally Challenge category that included 2WD cars – finishing 31st overall in a Toyota Starlet.

Te Aroha’s Graham Featherstone already wrapped up the 4WD title in a Mitsubishi Lancer and instead upgraded his challenge to enter in to the top-tier Super Rally category – finishing 15th overall in the season’s standings. Featherstone also won the rookie title – ten points ahead of Baddock’s total of 108 points.

The Andrew Simms Mitsubishi team of Chris West, Josh Marston and Jeff Judd took the teams award, finishing 22 points ahead of Team RPM (Richard Mason, Phil Campbell and Marcus van Klink), who finished with 375 points.

Championship winners will be awarded their titles at the annual MotorSport New Zealand formal prizegiving dinner – to be held mid-2014.

News and information about the championship – including driver profiles and team news – can be found on the website www.nzrallychampionship.co.nz, or follow New Zealand Rally Championship on Facebook.