Paddon wins Whangarei 2023

Kiwi pairing Hayden Paddon and John Kennard claimed another round win of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) by winning the 2023 International Rally of Whangarei.

Delivering another masterful performance Paddon and his team also secured the Pacific Cup title for the antipodean operation, this time using the Hyundai i20N Rally 2 car.

Fastest across all 16 stages of the rally held in the Northland region of New Zealand, Paddon returned to the ceremonial finish with a commanding 3min 35sec lead.

Second was Ben Hunt and Tony Rawstorn (Skoda) while Raana Horan and Michael Connor finished third (Skoda). Horan won the Ken Block Memorial trophy – the first time it was awarded.

Hayden Paddon Whangarei 2023
Fourth and the final finisher in the APRC field was Mike Young and Amy Hudson in the Toyota C-HR. It was a journey of attrition for the 11 who originally were entered. By the start ramp that had been thinned to eight with technical eligibility relegating them down the order.

Before the opening stage it decreased further when V8 Supercar driver Shane van Gisbergen’s Audi S1 AP4 stopped with an electrical fault. Then 4.4km into the stage the Ford Fiesta of Robbie Stokes retired with an engine failure.

Raana Horan, Whangarei 2023
By the Sunday morning the remaining field took another dive with the retirement of Todd Bawden (Ford Fiesta) and Jack Hawkeswood (Toyota Yaris).

“I’m really proud of our team and being able to take the Pacific Cup again – against strong competition like Ben and Raana,” said Paddon after the finish.

“The event has been nice to us over the years so are honoured to make it win number eight and we look forward to next year. It was a flawless effort from the team. The car ran perfectly, so is a credit to their performance from the workshop to the event.”

At the championship podium the top-three also received prize money courtesy of Indian businessman and promoter Mr Vamcy Merla. Chairman of the APRC Working Group Mr Vicky Chandhok welcomed Merla’s support: “Vamcy has obviously set his goals onto the international scene in his mission to support competitors in the APRC. Having contributed towards the earlier South India Rally & the Rally Otago he has shifted focus to the Rally of Whangerei where competitors will benefit from double their prize money and the organisers will benefit from the organisation subsidy he has provided in return for branding at the event and on the cars.”

The title deciding final round of the APRC will be held at Indonesia’s Danau Toba Rally – 24 to 26 November.

Results – 2023 International Rally of Whangārei (provisional)
1. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard, Hyundai i20n Rally 2 2:04:03.0
2. Ben Hunt / Tony Rawstorn, Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo +3:35.6
3. Raana Horan / Michael Connor, Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo +1:08.4
4. Mike Young / Amy Hudson, Toyota C-HR +10:45.2

Photos: Geoff Ridder