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Paddon scores career best with second place at WRC Italy


New Zealand’s most successful rally driver Hayden Paddon has ably demonstrated his star potential having secured a history-making, career-best second place at this weekend’s Rally Italy Sardinia.

Paddon and co-driver John Kennard marked their first anniversary with Hyundai Motorsport by creating a double podium finish with Belgium team-mates Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul for the World Rally Championship’s newest manufacturer.

Paddon and Kennard led the rally from the start of Friday’s action – the first New Zealanders to lead an overseas WRC event – and only relinquished that lead on Saturday afternoon’s loop after leading the rally outright for 15 stages. They delivered Sunday’s results exactly to plan, securing their fourth stage win of this rally and safely getting to the finish despite some niggles with their Hyundai i20 WRC car.

Paddon described his first-ever WRC podium finish – the best result by a New Zealander in an overseas WRC rally – as a dream result.

Paddon said: “To finish on the podium is an absolutely amazing feeling. Words can’t really do justice to how I’m feeling right now.

“We had a strong weekend from the start but we just tried to take each stage as it came without looking too much at the timesheets. We knew it would get tougher once we lost the start position advantage so the fact we could hold our own against the World Champion was just fantastic.”

“We had our issues on Saturday afternoon, and thought that was the rally over, but thankfully we pushed on through, kept digging deep and made it through the Sunday in a comfortable second. Considering our buffer to Thierry in third, we took today very easily, not taking any risks and we have a debut podium as a reward.

“It’s been great to have such support from back home and I’m sorry they’ve had some late nights. I hope it’s been as worthwhile for them as it has been for us. We couldn’t have done this without the team, so my thanks to everyone at Hyundai Motorsport, too."

For Paddon’s co-driver John Kennard, this was the second time he’d stepped onto a WRC podium, the previous occasion being 27 years ago when he co-drove for the late Malcolm Stewart in an Audi Quattro coupe to secure third place in the 1988 running of Rally New Zealand, a round of the WRC drivers’ championship that year.

The next event for Paddon and Kennard is Rally Poland running from 2 to 5 July. After this, Paddon returns briefly to New Zealand to make a special guest appearance for Auckland motor vehicle dealership Winger Hyundai at New Zealand’s largest automotive and motorsport show, the CRC Speedshow, at the ASB Showgrounds on 18 and 19 July.

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