Kiwi rally drivers Hayden Paddon and John Kennard have secured their fifth top-five finish in a World Rally Championship event this year with a push to lift their performance even higher on the final day of the Tour de Corse.
Starting the final day of the French WRC event dubbed ‘rally of 10,000 corners’ on the island of Corsica in seventh position overall, the New Zealanders leapfrogged two positions up the leader-board on the rally’s penultimate stage. Their time for the 41.46 km twisting and turning tarmac test equalled that of rally winner Jari-Matti Latvala and was just 3.7 sec off their Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Dani Sordo who won the stage.
“I’m really happy with how the weekend’s progressed,” said Paddon. “Having been 15th after the first stage, we would never have thought that we’d get into the top five come the end of the rally.”
The rally hasn’t been without its challenges as the French WRC round returned to Corsica for the first time in seven years. It was Paddon and Kennard’s debut on the iconic asphalt rally, plus extreme weather conditions on Thursday night meant the cancellation Friday’s special stage two and its repeat run as stage four on Saturday – significant on a rally with only nine scheduled stages compared to the usual 19 or 20 special stages.
Earlier in the event, particularly with the impact of the weather making the roads very slippery, Paddon focused on surviving and getting through the reduced number of stages. An eighth quickest time on the second stage confirmed his position as tenth overall at the end of Friday. On Saturday’s reduced itinerary of just two special stages, a seventh quickest stage time bought Paddon into seventh overall after a solid day’s work in changeable conditions.
“It’s been very tough,” Paddon said. “Obviously some very trying conditions early on, and then it’s been slowly improving for the rest of the rally. We’ve been able to show some good progress from where we were in Germany. From this we can take a lot of positive signs.”
Paddon’s top five result has moved him into eighth place on the WRC drivers’ championship points table.