APRC Pacific Cup entrant Hayden Paddon stormed through the final stage of the Otago Rally, round 2 of the 2009 New Zealand Rally Championship to win it by 15 seconds and in doing so claim the podium’s top step for the weekend.
Paddon put paid to Richard Mason’s attempt at a hat-trick of victories in the Dunedin-based event, with five stage wins out of 14 and leading the Masterton driver home by 19.7 seconds.
“I’m definitely pretty ecstatic about it, especially for the team, sponsors and fans. My last win was at the 2008 Rally Hawke’s Bay and recently we have had a tough run internationally. A lot of people have been putting in heaps of hard work so it?s a good way to repay them.”
Team Green had some serious pressure on their shoulders heading into the final 42km Glenburnie stage. Hayden and his co-driver John Kennard were leading by just 0.3 of a second over Mason.
“I must admit I was nervous because he took 20 seconds out of us in the first pass through that same stage yesterday. Our car had been going really well in the fast sections but when it comes to the tighter and looser stuff we struggled for car set-up. But we just had to grab the bull by the horns and do the best with what we had.”
It turned out the Team Green Mitsubishi Evo 9 had the recipe fine-tuned, winning the stage and the weekend.
Mason, who finished first in Saturday’s first leg, punctured near the end of the stage.
The current New Zealand Rally Champion, Hayden didn’t have it all his own way for the two days however.
“We had a heart in the mouth moment on Stage 4, where I made a small error when I selected a wrong gear and the car momentarily jammed up.
Instantly it resulted in damaging the rear differential which we were lucky that it held together for the remaining of the day.”
The team then did a great job overnight to get the car repaired and flying for Sunday?s 6 special stages.
With this weekends victory, the team have narrowed Mason’s championship lead to 10 points, as they continue to work on development of both car and driver to overcome the points deficit.
Hayden was particularly pleased with the result considering it was the team?s first event using Dunlop tyres of which they did not have a chance to test them before hand.
“It was basically just a bolt on job but they performed really well.
We are still learning how to put them to the best use and get the most out of them, but like most things that will come with time and experience.”
The team’s next event is the International Rally of Whangarei, next month, where they will further fine tune their Evo 9 to move up a place from second last year.
Hayden was the youngest-ever winner to claim victory in this Asia-Pacific Rally Championship round when he won Rally Whangarei in
2007 aged 20.