Hayden Paddon has taken his Lancer Evo 9 to outright victory in the Hella International Rally of Whangarei – winning round two of the Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship today.

Following on from his leading Kiwi status after yesterday’s eight stages south of Whangarei, he stormed past overnight leader Cody Crocker to finish 24.4 seconds in front.

Again running south of Whangarei, the eight stages today proved to be just as taxing on the 22 championship competitors – of those starting the final leg only 15 finished.

Pleasant weather was of little assistance; mechanical and un-characteristic off-road excursions has up-turned the overall championship table, placing Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard at the top.

At the age of 20 Hayden is the youngest ever winner of a New Zealand Rally Championship round.

“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet. I’ll wake up tomorrow morning and hopefully realise what we’ve achieved.  It was just a matter of keeping at it and not doing anything stupid and throwing it off the road,” said Paddon of his result.

“In this year’s championship the bar has been raised so high now.  Richard Mason is world class and the pace is so fast so we’ve had to all try to catch up to him.  I think the pace is an indication of how much people are pushing given the number of incidents here.  It’s really good for the spectators and keeps us on our toes.”

Second Kiwi and third overall for the rally, Sam Murray (Subaru Impreza) has made a dramatic gain in his quest for championship contention – now second overall.

“It was a very good rally.  Yesterday started off very well – winning a few stages but then we ran out of talent, hit a bank and damaged the left rear and had to change a bottom arm so lost 30-40 seconds.  But unlike a few others we’re here at the finish and have some good points.”

The Mitsubishi and Subaru drivers have replaced the previous Richard Mason/Sara Randall and Emma Gilmour/Glenn Macneall championship leaders.  Both driver teams had fraught days: Mason had a minor off-road excursion mid-way through the day, to then spot the scene of a recently crashed Emma Gilmour Impreza.

Third for the rally championship field was Stewart Taylor, having only just returned from the World Rally Championship event in Argentina last weekend.  Driving a Lancer Evo 9 his rally didn’t start well when he stalled the car and lost considerable time on the very first stage of the rally.

In the 2WD car categories, Kayne Barrie was once again the leader in his Ford Fiesta, heading off Dave Strong’s Kiwi-2 class Honda Civic.

Both Group N 2WD (Fiesta Sporting Trophy) and Kiwi-2 category leaders again failed to finish the day, putting both Barrie and Strong at the front of their respective classes.

“It’s pretty awesome.  We weren’t the fastest – but that wasn’t our goal.  Our goal was to have a good clean finish.  These Asia Pacific events are pretty tough so we know the last man standing is going to do pretty well,” said Barrie at the finish.

Teenager Kirsty Nelson was cruelly robbed of a finish at her home event when a bust fluid hose resulted in a dramatic fire underneath her Subaru Impreza in today’s opening stage.

Another dramatic exit was provided by Dylan Turner – who rolled after leaping his Lancer Evo 9 over the Brooks Bridge.

With a three week break between rounds, the Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship now moves to Masterton for the Queen’s Birthday weekend (June 2-3).

Hella International Rally of Rotorua – top ten results overall
1. Hayden Paddon – John Kennard (Geraldine, Mitsubishi) 2h52m09.0s
2. Cody Crocker – Ben Atkinson (Australia, Subaru) + 24.2s
3. Sam Murray – Rob Ryan (Palmerston North, Subaru) + 54.9s
4. Hiroshi Yanagisawa – Tadashi Misaizu (Japan, Subaru) + 3:07.4
5. Stewart Taylor – Warwick Searle (Hawkes Bay, Mitsubishi) + 3:13.3
6 .N+han Thomas – Richard Kelly (Wellington, Mitsubishi) + 3:30.3
7. Callum McInnes – Linda Loughlin (Tauranga, Subaru) + 4:29.1
8. Rifat Sungkar – Herkusuma Mohamad (Indonesia, Subaru) + 10:00.0
9. Jean-Louis Leyraud – Bill Hayes (New Caledonia, Subaru) + 10:16.6
10. Brian Green – Fleur Pedersen (Palmerston North, Mitsubishi) + 12:23.1

Photos: Euan Cameron

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