Battered body, championship not on Paddon’s mind
WRC star Hayden Paddon returns home for the Stadium Finance Rally South Canterbury this weekend and could go a long way to wrapping up a third Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship if things go his way.
Paddon dominated the first two events on the 2018 calendar before skipping Rally Canterbury earlier this month while he was competing in the WRC in Europe.
With his closest challengers – Ben Hunt, Matt Summerfield and Emma Gilmour all striking problems in the Canterbury forests Paddon was able to maintain a healthy points advantage.
But he won’t be thinking about the title as he competes on home roads this weekend. The 31-year-old grew up in Geraldine and learned his trade on the South Canterbury roads.
“For us, from a performance side, it would be nice to go out and win as many stages as we can and focus on it stage by stage and let everything take care of itself,” Paddon said.
“If anything the manufacturers’ championship is looking very challenging for us. When you miss a round and there are no other Hyundai cars in the rally it is a very big gap to try and close up again.
“That gives us a good target now for the rest of the year – to see if we can claw those points back from that one rally.”
His return to the WRC wasn’t without incident. A heavy crash in Portugal left the Kiwi nursing a battered body heading into the notoriously rough Sardinia event. Thankfully Paddon got through it without further incident and banked a solid fourth place in the process.
He is almost back to full health as he prepares for South Canterbury.
Meanwhile long-time co-driver John Kennard is back in the car with Paddon this weekend too having missed Rally Whangarei last month after having a hip replacement done.
Kennard is fit and ready to go.
“He is probably in better condition than me I guess,” Paddon laughed.
“He is as good as new. He has got some new parts fitted – I think they are after-market parts. He is feeling young and fit and hungry to get back in the car.
“He is gutted to have missed Whangarei and he is just glad to be back in the car again.”
Paddon and Kennard will be the first car on the road in their Hyundai New Zealand AP4+.
The 2018 New Zealand Rally Championship is proudly supported by Brian Green Property Group, Gull New Zealand, Dunlop New Zealand, Hella New Zealand and Stadium Finance