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A massive team effort saw Hayden Paddon and John Kennard get to the end of Saturday’s Possum Bourne Memorial Rally and take the points’ lead of the Brian Green Properties Group New Zealand Rally Championship.
 
Landing heavily after a jump on the first stage, Paddon’s Stadium Cars Evo9 sustained damage which would hamper the Kiwi star through the remaining 10 stages of the one day event. Thanks to the quick thinking and fast work of his crew, Paddon was at least able to get to the finish in a respectable fourth place.
 
Taking the championship lead was Paddon’s main goal with this event and as remarkable as it sounds given the car’s condition, he achieved that goal. Regulations for this year’s six-round championship see competitive drop their worst result from the first five events. Paddon and Kennard, from Geraldine and Blenheim respectively, won the first two rounds and were away for the next two, meaning Paddon came into this fifth NZRC round just one point behind Nelson’s Ben Hunt in the driver’s championship. Now, with the worst round dropped, Paddon has 100 points in the Goldstar drivers' series, ahead of Masterton’s Richard Mason with 95 and Hunt with 91.
 
“It was a tough day which started badly for us on the first stage, setting the tone for the rest of the day,” reports Paddon before driving to Auckland airport for his flight to Australia and the 12 to 15 September running of their World Rally Championship event.
 
“I attacked a jump too hard, the landing was very heavy and the impact smashed the rear sump frame and diff, bent most rear suspension arms and damaged the gearbox. We had just two-wheel-drive for the two stages before service where the team did an amazing job patching the car – there we discovered the floor and sub-frame were also severely damaged and we couldn’t mount new suspension arms nor mount the rear diff correctly.
 
“Two stages later the rear diff broke free of its mounting and was then held in with strops and cable ties. At the final service all rear drive shafts were removed to take load off the rear diff. To compound the situation, much of the time I was driving one-handed to hold it in gear. We also spent more time in 2WD than 4WD today, so it was an interesting day to say the least!”
 
Despite all this, the Evo9 made it to the finish and along the way Paddon and Kennard won three stages in the 20-strong NZRC field.
 
Paddon heaped praise on his crew.
 
“I can’t thank our team enough who did an amazing job keeping the car going. How the car made it to the finish with the rear end still in is lucky, and salvaging some championship points from what could have been none is all thanks to the team.
 
“Now it’s time for Rally Australia and there is no rest. Some of the team flew to Australia Saturday night to begin preparations on the Skoda before we test on Monday. The rest remained behind to utilise some components from the Evo for the Skoda, joining us via a flight on Sunday.”
 
Australia’s WRC event runs in Coffs Harbour, 540 km north of Sydney and organisers promise one of the WRC’s most compact events ever, with two of the three legs never straying more than 35 km from Coffs Harbour. The 353.98 km of competition, split between 22 stages, comprises 38 per cent of the route’s 930.88 km.
 
Paddon says: “I’m really looking forward to getting back in the Skoda in Australia. We are feeling positive ahead of the event and the target is to win WRC2.”
 
With seven WRC2 competitors making the journey to Australia, Paddon has neither of the two competitors he’s been close in pace to in the previous two rounds – Robert Kubica and Jari Ketomaa. Key drivers to watch will be Saudi Yazeed Al Rajhi and Qatari Abdulaziz Al Kuwari both in Ford RRC cars, but it’s certain Paddon will be pushing hard to win the WRC2 category on the event on which he secured his 2011 FIA Production World Rally Championship title.
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