Paddon wins Otago Rally APRC round

Defending FIA Asia Pacific Rally Champion Hayden Paddon has top-scored for the weekend’s qualifying round of the 2023 season by winning the New Zealand based Otago Rally.

Held from 31 March to 2 April, it was Paddon and co-driver John Kennard’s ‘home’ event – a round of the 2023 Pacific Cup.

Paddon and co-driver John Kennard won each of the 15 special stages, finishing with a winning margin of 4min 23.9sec.

Second was Paddon’s team-mate Ari Pettigrew and Jason Farmer in a Holden Barina AP4. Third was Ben Hunt and Tony Rawstorn in a Skoda R5.

Paddon also set several new stage records in his Hyundai i20N Rally 2 car.

“The Rally 2 car is very different to what we’re used to in these conditions,” said the 35-year-old. “So there’s been a bit of adapting and, even with my driving style, there’s an element of trying to adjust that to the car as well. We’ve learned a lot about the car over the weekend which I’m sure will help us for the rest of the season and there’s definitely still more to come.”

The mid-autumn conditions provided a mix of cooler temperatures and calm following a southerly winter blast in the week leading up to the rally – leaving the roads in idyllic condition.

Using roads to the north of host city Dunedin on the Saturday, Paddon opened up a 1m59sec lead after eight special stages. The top-five overnight placings held after Sunday’s seven special stages to the south of Dunedin.

Australian entrant Richie Dalton and Mac Kierans (Skoda R5) retired early on the Saturday with steering failure. A total of 12 started and qualified to contest the championship decider, eight made it to the finish.

2019 APRC title contenders Michael Young (Toyota C-HR) had clutch trouble early on the Saturday, incurring penalty time. Jack Hawkeswood (Toyota Yaris) retired early on the Sunday after losing a wheel.

The third and final round for the Pacific Cup will be held at the northern New Zealand location of Whangarei – 12 to 14 May.

The winner will be recognised at the APRC title decider – being held at Indonesia’s Danau Toba Rally – 24 to 26 November.

2023 Otago Rally – APRC Pacific Cup Results
1. H.Paddon / J.Kennard, Hyundai i20N Rally 2, 2:09:01.8
2. A.Pettigrew / J.Farmer, Holden Barina AP4, +4:23.9
3. B.Hunt / T.Rawstorn, Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo, +4:46.3
4. R.Horan / M.Conner, Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo, +6:08.0
5. E. Gilmore / C.Mole, Citroen C3, +6:32.2