Top Kiwi rally driver Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard have secured a hard-fought fifth place at Rally Mexico which finished on Sunday afternoon (Central Standard Time).
In what was Paddon’s 50th WRC start, the Mexican rally delivered typical tough, hot conditions. The New Zealanders had a number of challenges to overcome including two broken suspension arms, mechanical issues creating by the high temperatures and heavily-gravelled stages.
Coming into Sunday’s final two stages, they held a relatively comfortable fifth place, but needed to balance speed and caution to ensure they safely reached the finish. Paddon’s pace through Sunday morning’s monster 80 km stage earned him a top three stage time and he carried that assurance into the final test, the points-earning power stage, to again set the third quickest time and earn his first power stage bonus point.
The 28-year-old professional rally driver said it was definitely a character-building weekend. “We’ve had our issues and all in all, it’s good to come home and achieve our goal of a top five result. It just goes to show you’ve got to be patient on these sort of rallies when things aren’t going quite right.
“There’s still a lot of positives to take forward. We had some good times; we were in the top three quite often but at the same time there’s still some things to work on for the future.”
Paddon’s top five finish made it two Hyundai i20 WRC cars inside the top five in Mexico with team-mate Dani Sordo and co-driver Marc Marti securing a well-deserved third place, making it a hat-trick of podium finishes for Hyundai Motorsport in the opening three WRC rounds.
Prior to Mexico, Paddon and Sordo were equal fourth on the WRC drivers’ championship leader-board with 18 points each. Now Sordo holds fourth place with 33 points and Paddon is in fifth with 29 points.
“Overall we scored good strong points here. There’s a good fight going in the championship within the top five and I’m sure that’s going to go on season long. We’re going to work hard now before Argentina and the following gravel rallies to get closer to the front and put a bit more pressure on those guys.”
Paddon and Kennard have a break from WRC competition – but not their training and preparation – for seven weeks until Rally Argentina running 21-24 April. Mexico, Argentina and Australia are the current three long-haul rallies of the predominantly Europe-based championship.