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Winning the weekend’s opening round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship seemed easy for past two-time champion Hayden Paddon from Geraldine. He and Blenheim based co-driver John Kennard finished 4mins 25sec ahead of Masterton’s Richard and Sara Mason after the 807.28km long Drivesouth Rally of Otago held over the Saturday and Sunday. Third overall, 2mins 56sec behind the Subaru of the Masons was four-wheel-drive rookie Ben Hunt and Tony Rawstorn of Nelson.

Paddon, 25, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9, accrued maximum championship points by winning both days and the event’s final test – the 10.94km Whare Flat ‘power stage’. The five bonus points also put $500 cash in the driver’s pocket.
 
“It was a good weekend even though we had a few things that kept us on our toes early on,” said Paddon at the ceremonial finish.

“I’ve really enjoyed being back in the seat and to be winning again after a tough past twelve months is a real bonus. A huge credit to the team; with the amount of effort that’s gone in to the rebuild on this car back home has been massive.

“We’ve had our fair share of issues this weekend with lack of full power at times but first and foremost the car got through.”
 
Today’s eight special stages, held largely to the south and east of Dunedin began with frosty and foggy conditions – with only 23 of the original 31 championship starters departing for the day’s action.

Winning the opening stage and six others for the day, Paddon incrementally improved his overnight lead. While the Mason’s scalped one back mid-way through the day the rest of the field largely followed each other to the finish.
 
Of the survivors, fourth overall was Rangiora brother and sister pairing Matt and Nicole Summerfield, in a Subaru STI.
 
Fastest two-wheel-drive championship team was Christchurch’s Deane Buist and Andrew Bulman in a Ford Escort RS1800. Winning the BNT Historic Rally category, they headed off a spirited charge from fellow Canterbury campaigners Jeff Judd and Malcolm Read while Australian Stewart Reid and Ian Stewart had to settle for third.
 
“It was close and we were having a good time so the win was a bonus,” said Buist, of his first classic championship victory.
 
ImageReversed fortunes rewarded Tauranga’s Phil Campbell and Venita Fabbro, fastest of the modern two-wheel-drive cars, 14th overall in the Ford Fiesta R2. Second was overnight leader Josh Marston and Rocky Campbell from Christchurch with David and James Holder from Mt Maunganui third in the older generation Ford Fiesta.
 
This year each competition class fits inside one of three categories: Super Rally, supported by Auto Finance Direct, for the modern cars, BNT Historic Rally and the Gull Rally Challenge – contested on the Sunday only. Only Oamaru’s Scott Simpson finished the day, taking maximum points.
 
Other category winners include Ben Hunt (junior) and Rhys Gardner (rookie).

The second round of six moves to the top of the North Island and will be a part of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship field contesting the International Rally of Whangarei, in association with the Brian Green Property Group - 18 to 19 May.
 
Captions:

Geraldine’s Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard won the Drivesouth Rally of Otago this weekend to take an early lead in the six round Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship. Photo: Euan Cameron.
 
Additional images: Christchurch’s Deane Buist and Andrew Bulman won the BNT Historic category of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship held this weekend at the Drivesouth Rally of Otago. Photo: Euan Cameron.
 
Results from Drivesouth Rally of Otago – top ten overall
 
Pos., No., Driver/Co-Driver, Hometown, Vehicle, Class., Time

1, 2, Hayden Paddon/John Kennard, Geraldine, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9, NZ1, 2:24:54.7
2, 1, Richard Mason/Sara Mason, Masterton, Subaru Impreza, NZ1, +3:55.4
3, 10, Ben Hunt/Tony Rawstorn, Nelson, Subaru Impreza, NZ1, +2:56.0
4, 101, Dean Bond/Ross Moody, Balclutha, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 6.5, D, +3:03.9
5, 102, Brian Stokes/Ally Mackay, Waikuku, Ford Escort 2500, C, +21.9
6, 8, Matt Summerfield/Nicole Summerfield, Rangiora, Subaru Impreza, NZ1, +23.3
7, 3C, Neal Bates/Coral Taylor, Australia, Toyota Celica RA40, CC, +25.6
8, 11, Matt van Tuinen/Erin Kelly, Australia, Subaru Impreza, NZ1, +33.4
9, 9, Rhys Gardner/Alex Ramsay, Balclutha, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 7, NZ1, +10.5
10, 2C, Derek Ayson/Andrew Graves, Gore, Ford Escort FJ2000, CC, +13.0

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