Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard have driven to victory over the weekend, winning the 2023 International Rally of Whangarei in their Hyundai i20N Rally 2 car.
The pair came home 3 mins and 35 seconds ahead of Ben Hunt and Tony Rawstorn who were piloting a Skoda Fabia R5 rally car, while Rana Horan and Michael Connor finished third, also behind the wheel of a Skoda.
The rally doubled as the fourth round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) which was the final round for the Pacific Cup sub-category. Paddon’s successive point scoring reinstated him as champion and was awarded the FIA trophy by representative Mr. Wayne Scott.
“I’m really proud of our team and being able to take the Pacific Cup again – against strong competition like Ben and Rana,” said Paddon after his eighth win of the rally.
“The event has been nice to us over the years so are honoured to make it win number eight and we look forward to next year. It was a flawless effort from the team. The car ran perfectly, so is a credit to their performance from the workshop to the event.”
The disappointment continued for Shane van Gisbergen and co-driver Glen Weston when they went off the road on the third stage of the morning. Competing for the experience, van Gisbergen’s day started with a spin on the opening stage before setting second-fastest time on the second.
Following heavy rain in the week leading up to the event the rally ran as scheduled – including the city-side Pohe Island publicity stage. The event covered eight stages to the north on the Saturday and six to the south on Sunday, totalling over 700km, with 225.80km being competitive sections. Attrition was high with 21 of the 48 missing from the finish.
Returning to Whangarei’s Pūtahi Park in the Town Basin, the city’s mayor Mr. Vince Cocurullo was on hand to celebrate with the finishers. The top three also received prize money provided by Indian businessman and promoter Vamcy Merla. Paddon’s team was awarded NZ$3000 for the win, $2000 for Hunt, and $1000 for Horan in third.
The Ken Block Memorial trophy was awarded to Auckland’s Rana Horan for an outstanding sportsman like attitude and performance.
“It didn’t all go his way on the Saturday and Rana demonstrated the type of attitude we knew of Ken – his ability to give, accept adversity and still deliver a 100 per cent performance,” said Rally New Zealand representative Chris Carr.
When his name was called out, Horan was speechless, saying, “Awesome. It’s off the hook. Unreal.”
“Ken Block is a legend. I was thinking what did I do to deserve this, so I’m blown away. It really means a lot and I’m so grateful to Rally New Zealand for putting this together.”
Dunlop Tyres Drive of the Event was awarded to 18-year old Zeal Jones from Pukekohe after he finished fifth in his first outing on Whangarei roads.
The first two-wheel drive finisher was Christchurch’s Dylan Thompson (Ford Fiesta Rally 4), completing the rally just behind Jones in sixth place.
With the second round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) now complete, local teams now head to the South Island for the third round – the South Canterbury Rally on 17 June. While Paddon leads the series, he will miss the next round.
The title deciding final round of the APRC will be held at Indonesia’s Danau Toba Rally over the weekend of 24 to 26 November.