Third in Finland for Paddon and Kennard
Kiwi rally stars Hayden Paddon and John Kennard finished Rally Finland in fourth place in the WRC2 category, but the later disqualification of original winner Teemu Suninen elevated the pair to third place in the official results.
Paddon was delighted with his original result, paying credit to the Hyundai New Zealand Rally team who were all with him in Finland to run the Hyundai i20 N Rally 2 car. The team took delivery of the new car at the end of June and have only contested two full rallies with it – the Latvian round of the European Rally Championship at the start of July and the just-completed Finnish World Rally Championship event. The small Kiwi team have been working hard on a series of developments to the car to bring it in line with Paddon’s preferred driving style and performance objectives.
Lining up among 17 competitors in the WRC2 category, the Kiwis got off to a steady start with a clean run through the opening super special stage and a solid run through Friday’s nine stages in the forests north-east of host city Jyväskylä to hold sixth overnight.
Paddon and Kennard went into Saturday’s stages with less than 50 seconds separating them in sixth from then-leader Suninen. Some top three times and splits on the longer stages, and a consistent, steady drive as others dropped out, saw them move into fourth position on the WRC2 leaderboard. They ended the day less than 15 seconds from third place.
Sunday’s quartet of special stages, each just over 10km in length, generally sees most competitors driving to maintain their finishing position to get to the finish. That was also Paddon’s goal, so to bring the car home in fourth was a great result for the small team from the opposite side of the world.
He described hearing the news that Suninen had been excluded as a surprise and not the way the team wanted to achieve a podium finish.
Paddon says: Initially finishing 4th we were quite happy. We had a plan for the event of setting a top-five pace which is more or less where we were at. The local drivers were very fast and times are super close. Overall, it was a good clean event. We felt much better in the car but also managed the risks to ensure we could take a damage-free car back to New Zealand. To get then promoted to P3 was a surprise; certainly not the way we want to achieve a podium but given the amount of sweat and tears we have poured into this as a small Kiwi team, it’s a result we will take.
“We have come a long way with the car since Latvia, investing much time from the team and the car felt much better. There is still more to find but we are going in a good direction which is pleasing.
“It’s been a pleasure working with our own team in Europe over the past few weeks, something of a step into the unknown for most of them but they have handled each challenge with professionalism. I’m super proud of our team and all work that has gone into getting to where we are right now.
“The team is on their way back to New Zealand now and I’m heading to Austria to prepare the car for airfreight so it will be back for Rally New Zealand at the end of September. I’m then home for ten days for some testing and development work before then coming back to the UK for a round of the Tour European Rally (TER) series.”
Hyundai New Zealand CEO Andy Sinclair comments: “We could not be happier for Hayden and John and the Hyundai New Zealand Rally team. This was their first competitive WRC rally since 2019, competing in a new car and running a small local team. We were really pleased with the initial P4 result, but then to receive the news that due to a disqualification they secured a podium result, well that was an unexpected cherry on top!
Paddon and Hyundai New Zealand Rally appreciate the support of Hyundai New Zealand, Mitre 10 Trade, Z Energy, Makita, Bailey Caravans, Ben Nevis Station, Winmax Brakes, Gravity Internet, Pak N’ Save, Bars Bugs, Pirelli, OMP/Racer Products, Mike Greer Homes, Bartercard, Accessman, Sign It Signs, Carters Tyre Service, ETCO, MITO and Provident Insurance.
Keep up with news on Hayden Paddon and the Hyundai New Zealand Rally team via the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/paddonrallysport.