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Paddon fights through tough Queensland Rally to finish


International events have tested Team Green's ability to bounce back and Rally Queensland was no different at the weekend

Looking after Geraldine driver Hayden Paddon's Mitsubishi Evo 8 kept them on their toes as he had two run-ins with the same ford but managed to keep battling on for a sixth placing in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) field, a second in the Pacific Cup, as well as setting some scorching, stage times.

The weekend did not begin auspiciously with a fuel surge slowing the car down for the last few kilometres of stage two. Then in the third stage things turned "pear shaped", Hayden says.

"Along a fast section in the forest we hit a ford, which we had noted to take at about 160 kph. Unfortunately, with recce restricted to 50 kph, we had not gained a true indication of just how rough this ford was at that sort of speed. The back of the car bottomed out and a large rock went up through the rear diff, smashing the casing to bits."

Eventually the car lost drive, but Hayden and co-driver John Kennard were able to get it mobile again and complete the remaining two and a half stages with just 2WD ? costing them over 4 minutes and 30 seconds.

They made it back to service and the team did a stellar job getting the car repaired in time and back on the road with a spare diff, which although only a standard road car item, allowed Hayden to set some competitive stage times.

"On Saturday's last stage we managed to sneak back into the lead of the Pacific Cup and back up to fifth in the APRC standings, having dropped back to seventh after our problems."

Team Green made some set-up changes to the car overnight to compensate for the standard rear diff and "despite still being a handful to drive in places, it felt quite good", Hayden said.

The day started brilliantly for the team recording fastest APRC time on the first stage, and second quickest on the following four stages.

Going into the final 35km stage Hayden and John were the second fastest APRC team for the day and had built up a healthy lead in the Pacific Cup.

However, disaster struck when halfway through the stage they began to catch the car in front, which was struggling with a puncture. They were within a few seconds of him in the blinding dust but got caught out while crossing the same ford that caused their problems on Saturday - this time crossing it in the opposite direction.

"Up until then the stage had been going really well, but with poor visibility we got the line wrong through the ford, which we'd safely crossed earlier in the day. The holes and rocks in the concrete ford ripped a left rear suspension arm out of the cross member, meaning we were left limping out of the stage on three wheels."

About 7km short of the stage's end the car locked up, forcing them to stop and pull some broken parts off so that they could drag it to the finish.

"Our total time loss exceeded 20 minutes, but we still got to the ramp and claimed second place in the Pacific Cup, thanks to our good times earlier in the day."

Going into the final round of this Pacific championship, at the International Rally of Whangarei in early June, Hayden is only one point adrift of kiwi rally veteran Brain Green.

The pressure will also be on at Whangarei to qualify for the Pirelli Star Driver scholarship, "which we fell short of this weekend after all our dramas," Hayden says.

"Despite the weekend being tough, we still learnt a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the roads, which are so different from NZ. So it was great to be able to set some competitive stage times."

Hayden"s next challenge is now just a few days away, when Team Green sets out to win Rally Otago (May 16 and 17) for the first time.

"I am really looking forward to getting back into our later model Mitsubishi Evo 9 for that, as it will seem like luxury after a weekend behind the wheel of the older Evo 8."


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