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Having run in the top five for 13 stages during their first attempt at the specialist tarmac Geko Ypres Rally in Belgium, New Zealand’s leading rally duo Hayden Paddon and John Kennard were gutted to crash out of the rally on the 14th stage.
Paddon reports from the FIA European Rally Championship event: “On stage 14, while approaching a fast right hand corner, I turned in as I normally would. However, as soon as I turned in, the rear immediately snapped sideways, which put us into a spin down the road. Unfortunately a tree right on the side of the road halted the spin and brought us to a standstill. The damage was not big; however a broken radiator meant that we could go no further. We’re unsure what caused the car to behave as it did.”
Paddon and Kennard, from Geraldine and Blenheim respectively, impressed many by securing third place after Friday’s first leg of six wet, muddy and tricky stages. They were the only competitors other than Belgium star Freddy Loix to win a stage.
The Kiwis started Saturday’s lengthy 14 stage schedule right on the pace in their Symtech Racing-prepared, Pirelli-shod Ford Fiesta S2000, setting the second-quickest time through the 14.34 km opener behind UK’s Craig Breen in a Peugeot.
Paddon continued with consistent pace – third and fifth quickest times – near the front of the leader-board all morning, but by the midday service had slipped to fourth overall, hampered by the increasingly muddy tarmac roads.
“The day started well as we were able to set some good times on the cleaner roads. But as the day wore on the roads began getting a little muddier which we struggled more than most on, which showed in the times.”
Two more stages after lunch and Paddon set two more fourth-quickest times against competitors like now eight-time Ypres Rally winner Freddy Loix and others with massive tarmac rally experience. Then came stage 14 and the small crash which ended Paddon’s hopes of finishing his first-ever ERC event.
“It is always disappointing to end a rally in this way, but there are also always positives to take from it,” said Paddon. “This has been great event to be part of. The atmosphere while in the ERC has been amazing and there have been a huge amount of people in the area, at service park and on the stages witnessing the action. Massive thanks to our whole team who did a great job throughout the week.
“I am now really looking forward to getting back on my preferred surface of gravel in Finland in early August, where we will bounce back. We still have full confidence in achieving what we are setting out to do this year and this is just another small bump in the road as we build-up to Rally Finland.”
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