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The weekend's Rally of New Zealand was a event that Team Green and driver Hayden Paddon will want to forget in a hurry after a series of issues throughout the rally. However, despite the difficult weekend, the team have retained their New Zealand Junior Rally Championship title for 2007.

As part of their New Zealand championship and also the Production World Rally championship that they were participating in, Hayden along with co-driver John Kennard got off to a good start.

The pair set the 5th fastest PWRC time in the opening test, but this came after losing a big chunk of time in the opening split. For the final 2 splits Hayden was on the same second as PWRC leader Toshi Arai and country-man Richard Mason. Then again on the second test, the opening split was promising, just 1 second off the leader and matching Mason’s pace. But that was as good as it was to get for the team. A blown gearbox 7km’s into stage 2 sidelined the team as they reflected on what could have been.

“Our pace in the opening stage was surprising as I was just starting to get into the groove. I have no doubt in my mind that we could have been matching the times of the front running PWRC cars, but that’s just the way it is and we learn from these things.”

Their leg 1 result combined with the closeness of the championship, meant the team dropped from the top of the points table to 4th.

The team fitted their spare standard gearbox to rejoin for Saturday's Leg 2 to gain points towards their New Zealand championship. The standard transmission with different ratios required Hayden to change his driving style to compensate for using the clutch, something he admits to being very difficult.

“It was difficult for me to get a hang of, as I am used to left foot braking which of course I couldn’t do with the standard box as I had to be using the clutch and the brake at the same time. It was a bit of a pig to be honest, often missing gear changes and most of the time being in the wrong gear.”

To make matters worse for the team, the car began to lose power half way through the 30km Te-Akau South stage and then just several hundred metres from the finish line lost all power as they blew a turbo hose.

“At the time I thought we had blown a turbo and that would be our championship hopes over. I was relieved to find a turbo hose had came off which we fixed on the road section but we lost a lot of time.”

Hayden collected 3rd for the New Zealand championship for day 2 which helped the team climb back up to second on the points table but now 20 points adrift of new series leader Sam Murray.

“It is a big points deficit to haul back with one single leg rally remaining, but as we illustrated this weekend things can change very quickly, so this championship is far from over. Our goal at Nelson is to win which will give us our best possible chance at winning the championship.”

Despite the standard gearbox and different handling capabilities of their Mitsubishi Evo 8 on day 2, Hayden still managed impressive stage times inside the top 5 PWRC, something that drew praise from outside teams.

“During the morning's stages on day 2, I was driving the car as fast as I could with what I had. Although I was disappointed not to be more in touch with the leaders, on a few stages we were less than half a second a km off the pace, and in testing that we have done we know that the difference between a standard box and a dog box is a good half a second per km.”

For the team to win the New Zealand Rally Championship, Hayden needs to win while leader Murray needs to finish 7th or worse.

“There is still a lot to play for, and the championship will not be decided until the last corner of the last stage.”

The final round is the rally of Nelson on September 30th.
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