25 May 2015

Paddon eighth in Rally of Portugal

8:01 am on 25 May 2015

The New Zealand driver Hayden Paddon has finished eighth at the World Rally Championship's Rally of Portugal with co-driver John Kennard.

Hayden Paddon, Portugal, 2015.

Hayden Paddon, Portugal, 2015. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala won the event for the Volkswagen driver's first world championship victory of the season.

Latvala, who took the lead on Saturday beat French world champion team mate Sebastien Ogier by 8.2 seconds with Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen making it a Volkswagen 1-2-3 finish.

Ogier, who won the power stage of the gravel event for three bonus points, leads Mikkelsen in the standings with 105 points to the Norwegian's 63 after five rounds.

Paddon feels more positive about his improved competitiveness against his Hyundai team-mates and other World Rally Championship front-runners following the result.

He said his fourth event of the 2015 World Rally Championship season was "an up and down weekend" and, although he'd hoped for a top five result, he's feeling encouraged by the relative closeness of his times to the rally's podium finishers.

"To put it in context, we were closer to the leaders here compared to last year's Rally Australia, where we finished sixth, and this year's Rally Sweden when we secured our best-ever WRC result to date with a fifth place," Paddon said.

Driving for the Hyundai Team, Paddon and Kennard started today's short leg of just three special stages in a solid seventh position.

But the struggle to find pace on worn tyres meant the New Zealanders were forced to settle for eighth overall.

Paddon thanked his team's hard word in fixing the car after issues with a rock on day two, which allowed them to get back out on the third morning.

"The long middle stage this morning was tough. From the start, we found it difficult with different wear rates on the tyres, which felt like the car was continually trying to turn ends on us."

Paddon and Kennard finished the event's final three stages with the eighth, seventh and ninth fastest times respectively.

Paddon now returns to his European base in Frankfurt and Kennard to his Marlborough vineyard, where the two will continue their preparation for next month's Italian round.

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