Video: New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon, with co-driver John Kennard, has won the Production World Rally Championship category of Rally Finland and taken a commanding lead in 2011 production championship
With PWRC category wins in Portugal and Argentina already to his credit this year, 24-year-old Paddon, from Geraldine, said: “This has been a dream start to the season and to win in Finland – which is such a famous WRC event - is amazing! Of course, there is still a long way to go to win the 2011 PWRC title and we have to take it one rally at a time with our next one being Rally Australia in September.
“We now also have a healthy 25 point lead in the championship, with the next two competitors behind us in the championship missing the next round in Australia . We’re absolutely over the moon!”
Paddon and Kennard, in their Symtech Racing-prepared Subaru STI rally car, came through the first short leg of Rally Finland in third place among the production category competitors. By the end of the second day, closest competitors Swedish driver Patrik Flodin and Finn Jarkko Nikara faltered while Paddon and Kennard showed both their trademark consistency and true commitment to the high speed needed to win in Finland to take the category lead. The Kiwis had a 54.4s margin over local Finn and wildcard entrant Mikko Pajunen going into the third and longest day on Saturday.
“We started today with nearly one minute’s advantage, but soon discovered that local driver, Jarkko Nikara, was closing quickly. At the midday service we had to try and lift our pace to keep him behind. We pushed very hard on the first afternoon stage and, combined with Nikara having problems, we were able to stretch the lead to back over one minute with just four stages remaining. Over those four stages we took it a lot easier as the roads had become rough and we had to protect the car.”
Paddon finished with a margin of 40.2 s over Nikara while Flodin was more than a minute adrift in third. In the overall Rally Finland standings, Paddon was 19th.
“I came here wanting to be on the podium, so to leave here with maximum points is a great feeling. I’ve not won many stages but I’ve been consistently fast over the whole weekend and certainly there is more pace to come,” said Paddon who swapped from Mitsubishi to Subaru this season. “I’m still learning the car and the new events.”
Paddon’s closest rival on the PWRC points-table, Martin Semerad, was forced to retire after a car fire on Friday morning.
After Rally Finland , Paddon tops the PWRC leader-board with 75 points with three events still to complete: Australia , Spain and Great Britain . Semerad is second with 50 points and has only two events remaining – PWRC competitors select six of the seven specified World Rally Championship rounds and Semerad contested the season-opener in Sweden , while Paddon did not. Flodin holds third with 34 points, and he too, is not heading to Australia where Paddon has already won the PWRC class last year.
Paddon added: “A huge thanks to the whole Symtech team who have outdone themselves once again and to everyone back home that has been supporting us.”