May 13, 2007, 4pm. Hayden Paddon today became the youngest-ever winner of a New Zealand Rally Championship round when he took overall victory in the Hella Rally of Whangarei, Round 2 of the Vantage Aluminium Joinery 2007 NZ series.
The 20-year-old from Geraldine in South Canterbury turned in a mature and consistent performance to guide his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 to a 24.4-second victory over Asia-Pacific champion Cody Crocker (Subaru Impreza WRX STi).
The Whangarei Rally doubled as a round of the Asia-Pacific series, and Crocker won that section comfortably.
In the New Zealand championship section Sam Murray finished second in his WRX – and third overall.
Stewart Taylor (Evo 9) was third NZ driver home, followed by Nathan Thomas (Evo 7) who turned in a strong drive in only his second event in a top-level car.
Then came Bay of Plenty driver Callum McInnes (WRX), who finished second-fastest behind Crocker on the rally’s final stage at Waipu Caves.
Kayne Barrie won the Ford Fiesta Trophy class, and Dave Strong won Kiwi 2 in his Honda Civic Type R.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 driver Brett Martin had to deal with a bizarre problem in the final two stages after the car’s steering column came loose and fell into his lap.
That left Martin with the “scary” job of trying to hold the column out of his lap and steer the car; but he managed to get it to the finish.
Dean Sumner, who had been the early rally leader yesterday till he snicked a bridge late in the day with the rear of the car, breaking a suspension arm and forcing his retirement, won today’s Leg in his ITM Evo 9.
Paddon said the key to his victory was a “team effort” by the Paddon Direct squad.
“It was just the whole team working together,” he said. “(After each rally) we sit down and go through everything step-by-step on how to improve the car and how to improve (my driving).
“We’ve got to a competitive stage now and everyone is working together.
“(But winning) certainly was unexpected, and it gives me confidence for the remaining four rounds.”