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Paddon extends ERC lead with second place in Poland

Kiwi rally stars Hayden Paddon and John Kennard continue to lead the 2023 FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) after securing a hard-fought second place at Rally Poland which ran 18-21 May.

Paddon and Kennard, from Cromwell and Blenheim respectively, got off to a flying start in Poland in the BRC-run Hyundai i20 N Rally 2 car. Second quickest in Friday night’s opening super special stages in the host city of Mikołajki, north of Warsaw, the pair won two Saturday morning stages and held the rally lead through to SS5. As expected, the afternoon’s repeated runs through the four gravel stages saw the roads become more rutted. Paddon and BRC team management made the call to focus on getting the car safely through the remainder of the day, which meant balancing wanting to fight for the rally win and the ultimate goal of a strong finish to maximise championship points. They ended the day with another stage win and just eight seconds off the leader, Latvian Martins Sesks.

Sunday’s stages and conditions were tougher than expected, with ruts and holes throughout the day’s eight stages challenging all competitors. Tyre damage on the morning’s first stage meant Paddon had no spare tyre for the remainder of the morning loop. Another puncture on the afternoon loop meant Paddon controlled his pace to minimise the risk of a further puncture, which would have meant retirement from the rally. The Kiwis held second place throughout the day and fought for bonus points in the final, power stage.

Their considered drive earned them second place overall and allowed Paddon to extend his lead on the ERC points-table to 85 points, 37 points head of Sesks.

Paddon says: “It was a really good rally here in Poland. We have competed here before but these stages weren’t familiar to me. To come away with second place is perfect for our championship along with a couple of extra bonus points on the power stage.

“It certainly wasn’t without its challenges. I’d say today was one of the more stressful days we’ve had. The conditions were very rough. We had some tyre problems we had to manage so that made us a little bit on edge to prevent any more problems which could have ended our rally. We’re happy with some stage wins and being able to demonstrate speed against a very competitive European field. Today (Sunday) the focus was on keeping second place and securing the points to build our championship lead, which we were able to do. So overall, a very good weekend with great work from everyone at the BRC team with our Hyundai.”

Looking ahead, the next ERC event is in Latvia in June. “The first three rounds have gone to plan,” says Paddon. “We want to continue this momentum. For sure, we want to fight for rally wins, but ultimately it’s about putting ourselves in a good position to try and win the championship.”

Paddon’s next rally is a new one for the experienced Kiwi – he heads to Rally Barbados where he and Kennard will run a Hyundai i20 R5 in the Caribbean event, 9-11 June.

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 here

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