South Canterbury driver Hayden Paddon became the youngest ever NZ Rally Champion when he clinched the title in Leg Two of Rally NZ today.
One box ticked, one to go. That’s the story for Hayden Paddon at the end of Leg Two of Repco Rally New Zealand.
The South Canterbury driver has scored enough points to secure the 2008 Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Champion title.
But he remains dissatisfied with his position in the standard production world championship (PWRC) section of the event and his relative pace compared with that class’s front-runners.
Paddon now holds a 56-point lead over Richard Mason with one round of the NZ series to go, at Nelson in three weeks’ time.
That’s too great a margin for Mason (BNT Subaru Impreza WRX STi) to peg back on the one-day Nelson event which carries a maximum of 30 points for a win.
Also in contention until this weekend was Chris West in the Andrew Simms Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, but West has endured a nightmare Rally NZ.
The steering wheel literally broke in his hands yesterday and he had to drive the Evo out of the third stage and back to the Mystery Creek service park using the splines on the top of steering column.
His bad run continued when he rolled and then the Lancer got bellied and had to be towed back on to the road by fellow competitor Andre Meier.
Those incidents dropped West out of contention for the title.
Paddon, who has become the youngest driver ever to win the NZ Championship, said that coming mid-rally with one more day to run, the series victory felt “funny; it hasn’t really sunk in.
“My focus has been on the whole weekend (and making a good showing in the PWRC). We’ve got a long way still to go in that tomorrow.
“It’s been a hard weekend which has probably damped it (the championship win) a little bit.”
Hayden said he was unhappy with his pace on the mandatory hard-compound Pirelli tyres that all runners have to use in Rally NZ.
“I just can’t really get myself dialled into the car or the car dialled into the tyres.
“It’s frustrating because I know I can match Richard (Mason) on a good day.”
Paddon is fourth in the PWRC section of the rally, and is aiming to take the third podium position tomorrow. The driver ahead of him, Martin Rauam of Estonia, has a 6.1-second lead.
“I really want to get on the podium,’ Paddon said. “It would mean a lot to me.
“I’d like to be mixing it up a bit more with the PWRC front-runners (because) I’d like to think we could make it into the PWRC in the near future and be dicing with them regularly.
“(But) I still have a lot to learn and a lot of speed to get.”
Mason won the NZ championship section of Rally NZ today, from Paddon and Hawke’s Bay driver Stewart Taylor.