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New Zealand’s top rally drivers Hayden Paddon and John Kennard finished on the podium at this weekend’s World Rally Championship event in Finland with a well-deserved third place in the intensely competitive WRC2 category.
 
Paddon reports: “It is always a great feeling to finish on the podium in Finland, the spiritual home of rallying, and finishing third today gets our 2013 WRC campaign off to a great start. It is also a relief to get back on the podium in the WRC and to be the fastest S2000 competitor over the course of the rally was also pleasing.”
 
At the start of Saturday’s final eight stages, Paddon and Kennard were focussed on staying in that podium position, having moved into a solid third place during Friday’s nine stages despite hitting a rock and breaking the suspension of their Skoda Fabia S2000 car in the second-to-last stage. They started the final day just under two minutes behind former Formula 1 driver Pole Robert Kubica in second, with Finn Jari Ketomaa out in front of the WRC2 class.

“Today [Saturday] was a trouble-free day for us,” said Paddon. “We went at a steady pace on the morning loop when the stages were not too damaged and then took it easy on the afternoon rougher stages. It was also important to make sure we completed all the stages as they are stages that we have not previously done, so this provides great experience for next year. And what about the famous Ouninpohja stage – one of the most famous and fastest stages in the WRC – it was awesome! I love the fast stages, and we spent a lot of time in the stage jumping. It will be great to return to it again next year with revised notes and commit 110% as that will be better than a rollercoaster.”

Paddon’s very competitive stage times during the morning’s loop of four stages, self-described as “steady”, put the Kiwi consistently in the top three, just a second or two slower than the stage winners Finns Ketomaa and Esapekka Lappi. Paddon and Kennard were second quickest of the WRC2 competitors on both runs through the famous Ouninpohja stage and were never outside the top four all day. Overall, Paddon and Kennard finished the third day’s stages, having slightly narrowed the margin to second-placed Kubica and widened the gap back to Yazeed Al Rajhi in fourth.

“We are happy with the result and considering how long it has been since we were last in the Skoda on gravel, it is also good. There is still more speed to come as we are not at 100 per cent as that last 5 per cent will come with more seat time and experience. Our next event in Germany, in just three weeks’ time, will be an event where we hope to lift things another notch and climb further up the podium.”

Paddon extended his thanks to the team from Baumschlager Rallye & Racing (BRR) which prepared and maintained his car throughout what was a relatively rough Finnish event.

“It was also fantastic to have many Kiwi supporters here, including Tony Gosling from Stadium Cars, one of our key sponsors, and thanks also to all our partners, in particular VINZ, Stadium Cars, PlaceMakers, Giltrap Group, Z Energy and Telecom.”
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