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Hayden Paddon made the most of every kilometre of the International Rally of Whangarei as he prepares for his return to international competition at Rally Portugal in two weeks’ time. With stand-in co-driver Malcolm Peden alongside, Paddon won all 18 special stages of the two-day gravel rally in his New Zealand-built Hyundai i20 AP4+ car. His winning margin of seven minutes and 26.3 seconds over second-placed Ben Hunt highlighted the Kiwi rally star’s dominance of one of his favourite domestic rallies and made more Kiwi rally history being the largest-ever winning margin at this event. His stage times on the repeated loops were always faster – often significantly so – on the second run regardless of weather and road conditions, which included fog, bright sun and dust on Saturday, and a little rain and mud on Sunday. “It was a good weekend; everything went really well,” Paddon said. “We worked on a few things like some changes with pace notes which worked well, and learnt a couple things with tyre management and different driving strategies between the first and second pass – good things that will translate to overseas competition. Everything felt really good, natural, in the car, so it’s the perfect confidence booster for heading back over.”
Hayden Paddon

Hayden Paddon was a clear winner of the Rally of Whangarei. Photo: Geoff Ridder

Seeded to run first on the road, Paddon says there was plenty of loose gravel. “There’s always a lot of cleaning on the first pass but it was quite enjoyable – you can drive more aggressively and flamboyantly. The roads were really swept on the second pass and it was a lot harder on tyres which meant you just had to adjust your driving and some of the car setup as well. Apart from the penultimate stage when the rain came, when we weren’t able to attack our old record, the times were faster on the second passes.” Having been joined by Cambridge-based Peden for this one event, Paddon acknowledges Peden had a big job, stepping in as a replacement. “Malcolm did a great job. It’s certainly not easy for him to step in like this when we’ve done nothing together in the past. As the rally progressed, our work together gained confidence. I’m really happy with the job he did. I wasn’t expecting miracles and, if anything, he exceeded my expectations.” The AP4+ Hyundai is run by Paddon Rallysport, under the Hyundai New Zealand Rally Team banner. “Once again, the team put in massive amount of effort on the car to get ready and it ran like clockwork this weekend. We were testing them (the team) out as well, making some reasonably big setup changes on the car at services so we could get new information and they pulled it all off, no problem.” Paddon departs New Zealand yesterday (Monday) bound for Europe and a regular pre-event test with Hyundai Motorsport prior to the 17-20 May running of Rally de Portugal which attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators.
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