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Hayden Paddon Triumphs at Southern Lights Rally

Cromwell’s Hayden Paddon and co-driver Jared Hudson delivered a masterful performance to clinch victory at the Transport World Southern Lights Rally on Saturday, 22 June. This marked the triumphant return of championship-level rallying to the Southland region.

Paddon dominated the 65-car field, winning all ten special stages and securing victory by a margin of 3 minutes and 8.6 seconds. This win not only demonstrated Paddon’s exceptional driving skills but also marked Hyundai’s first victory on Southland roads with their i20 AP4.

Securing second place were Auckland’s Ben Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawstorn, who consistently trailed Paddon with the second-fastest times on five of the event’s special stages in their Skoda Fabia Rally2.

Third place went to the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) leading team of Robbie Stokes and Amy Stokes in a Ford Fiesta AP4. The Canterbury-based pair, who traded places with Hunt/Rawstorn midway through the day, finished 7.9 seconds behind.

In fourth was the Toyota Yaris AP4 driven by Auckland’s Jack Hawkeswood and co-driver Jason Farmer.

Paddon remains in fourth place overall in the NZRC standings, having missed the season’s opening round in April. Jack Hawkeswood holds third place, 20 points behind Ben Hunt (83 points) and three points ahead of Hayden Paddon.

“It has been an incredible day. Right from the first stage on Friday night through the forest to the finish here at Teretonga, it’s been an amazing experience to be here. To win is really special as this is an event I’ve looked forward to returning to the calendar for many years. A huge thanks to everyone involved in making it all happen – the Rally Race Group organisers, car clubs, the volunteers out there, and the crowd here at Teretonga. It’s really awesome to see so many people here supporting the event,” said Paddon at the finish.

Fifth place was claimed by Gore’s Andrew and Hayden Graves in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III. Their impressive performance placed them ahead of competitors in newer generation cars.

The first two-wheel-drive finishers were Christchurch’s Dylan and Bayden Thomson in a Ford Fiesta Rally4.

Winter weather for the late-June event was expected to compound the challenge for competitors, organisers, and event volunteers. Instead, the mild, calm, and dry conditions delivered a welcome surprise, allowing fans and visitors to fully enjoy the Southland event. The queue of cars for the Teretonga race circuit stage stretched beyond Sandy Point road, as spectators arrived to view the conclusion of the event and the ceremonial finish.

Making her first start on New Zealand’s roads was 2021 Extreme E and 2016 Australian Rally Champion Molly Taylor. Driving the Castrol-backed Subaru Impreza H6, Taylor finished 18th overall and second in the Class D classic four-wheel-drive cars, alongside co-driver Andy Sarandis. They finished behind Magnum Motorsport teammate Tim Smith and Brett Maddren in the H6 Subaru Impreza.

“It’s been fun, an amazing experience – and one I want to do again,” said Taylor after the finish. “There has been so much to learn with this car and how I drive it – you could call it unfinished business. The roads, hospitality, the team – everything has been amazing. It’s been so much fun.”

Taylor and Sarandis will return directly to Australia for next weekend’s round of the Bosch Motorsport Australian Rally Championship, where she leads the production category.

Backing the organisers, Rally Race Group, are local car clubs, particularly the South Otago Car Club and the Southland Sports Car Club. Attention now turns to their next event – the fourth round of the NZRC and a return to the Manawatu for the Daybreaker Rally on 13-14 September.

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