Paddon closes in on fourth NZRC title
WRC star Hayden Paddon could secure the 2018 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship at this weekend’s fifth round based out of Whitianga on the Coromandel.
Paddon will start Hyundai NZ Goldrush Rally of Coromandel with a 33-point lead in the standings. If he maintains that lead heading into the sixth and final round the 31-year-old will secure his fourth national championship and first since 2013.
“It would be nice to get that,” Paddon said. “It is quite important from a Hyundai perspective. Hyundai has never won a New Zealand MotorSport title to my knowledge so it would be quite nice to bring that home for them.
“Moving on from that there is still the manufacturers’ one, which will go down to the final rally.”
Paddon, who is partnered by Malcolm Peden this week, is determined to taste success on the peninsula however. It remains one of the very few national rallies that the one-time WRC winner has yet to taste victory in and where he made a small but costly error 12 months ago.
“It is one of the only national rallies that we haven’t won so it would be nice to tick that off this weekend,” Paddon explained.
“Then you compare where the car was at this rally last year to where it is now I think it is in a much better position so looking forward to a good, fun, relaxing weekend.”
Pushing Paddon is good friend and the two-time defending rally champion Brendan Reeves of Australia. Reeves will line-up in the Force Motorsport Mazda 2 AP4 searching for a rare three-peat alongside co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino.
Local drivers Josh Marston (Holden), Ben Hunt (Subaru), Matt Summerfield (Mitsubishi) and Emma Gilmour (Suzuki) are scrapping over the minor placings in the championship and will all fight hard at the front of the field. Also in that mix is current Australian champion Nathan Quinn, who starts his fourth successive NZRC event in a fourth different car. Quinn, who is very much fighting to be championship runner-up, will pilot a Peugeot 208 Proto.
Two other leading contenders to keep an eye on are the returning Dylan Turner in his Audi while Raana Horan will debut his Skoda Fabia R5 having only just taken the keys to it.
In all there are 10 different manufacturers among the top 10 seeds for the event.
Dylan Thomson and Amy Hudson could wrap up both the MotorSport New Zealand overall 2WD championship as well as class two front wheel drive championship with another good result.
Wayne Pittams and Chris Davison are in control of the open 2WD category 3 class and will look to push for a strong overall 2WD result.
Geof Argyle (with Joelle Eyre) and Grant Blackberry (with Ric Chalmers) look set for an epic battle in the Gull Rally Challenge 4WD category and both drivers should figure in the top 10 overall. Matthew Jensen (Kieran Anstis) and championship leader Eugene Creugnet (Philippe Delrieu) will also fancy their chances of battling for a class victory.
Anthony Jones and Tanya Gwynne are the highest seeded car in the Gull Rally Challenge 2WD category in their Ford Escort. Four-time national champion Bruce Herbert (and Bevan Parker) should provide stiff competition however.
The Mo Bros Mitsubishi Galant VR4 entry of Matt Adams and Carol Liston will start as the favourites in the Stadium Finance Group A Challenge.
The rally begins with the Kennedy Bay stage at 8.23am on Saturday. In total competitors will travel almost 114km across eight special stages.
The 2018 New Zealand Rally Championship is proudly supported by Brian Green Property Group, Gull New Zealand, Dunlop New Zealand, Hella New Zealand, Hyundai New Zealand and Stadium Finance.
Release: Rally New Zealand
Photo: Geoff Ridder