Paddon extends ERC lead in Sweden
A finely judged second place at the Royal Rally of Scandinavia in Sweden ensured that New Zealand rally stars Hayden Paddon and John Kennard were able to extend their lead in the 2023 FIA European Rally Championship (ERC).
The Swedish event took place 7 and 8 July as round 5 of the ERC and offered Paddon his first taste of competing in Sweden in summer.
Paddon finished second by just 22.5 seconds to WRC2 regular Oliver Solberg after a close-fought battle over 182.6 competitive km.
Paddon and Kennard won six of the rally’s 16 special stages, including the bonus points-scoring power stage on Sunday afternoon which Paddon won, earning the maximum five points, having strategically saved his tyres during the afternoon’s earlier stages.
Paddon and Kennard now each have 142 points in their respective driver/co-driver championships. Paddon has extended his lead slightly over second-placed Latvian Martin Sesks, who now has 108 points, the gap between Paddon and Sesks now extending from the previous 30 points to 34 points.
For Paddon, the rally was always going to be about balancing his aim of earning championship points and fighting for outright victory, particularly with Solberg among the competition.
“Overall, we’re really happy with the result,” said Paddon. “We always knew it was going to be tough with some new and very fast competition this weekend, so the target was to stay ahead of our main championship rivals Martin Sesks and Mads Ostberg, which I’m pleased to say we did.”
Paddon acknowledges it was hard separating the desire to take more risks to try and win the rally versus the need to earn maximum championship points. “So, it was a matter of driving fast enough to keep the pressure on Oliver, but trying not to take unnecessary risks. Points are worth gold to us at the moment and being able to extend our championship lead is perfect. It’s been an amazing rally on amazing roads, and we’ve all enjoyed it a lot. Our thanks to BRC Racing for once again preparing and running the Hyundai i20 Rally 2 car perfectly.”
Next up for Paddon and the BRC-run Hyundai i20 Rally 2 car is the asphalt Rally di Roma Capitale at the end of July. The rally is based in Fiuggi, a thermal spa town southeast of Rome, and features two days of challenging stages with an opening super special stage near Rome’s famed Colosseum.
Paddon and Hyundai New Zealand Rally appreciate the support of Hyundai New Zealand, Mitre 10 Trade, Z Energy, Makita, Open Country, Bars Bugs, Pirelli, OMP/Racer Products, Winmax Brake Pads, South Canterbury Road Safety, Ben Nevis Station, Bailey Caravans, Repco NZ, Highlands Motorsport Park, MITO, ETCO, Jacanna Freight, Pak N’ Save, Machinery House, Bartercard, Mike Greer Homes, Provident Insurance, Zealandia Systems, Carters Tyres and Signbiz.
Keep up with news on Hayden Paddon and the Hyundai New Zealand Rally team via the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/paddonrallysport.