25 Apr 2016

Paddon wins Rally Argentina

1:57 pm on 25 April 2016

Geraldine driver Hayden Paddon has scored his first World Rally Championship victory.

Hayden Paddon and John Kennard

Hayden Paddon and John Kennard Photo: Photosport

Paddon survived final day mechanical issues with the gearbox in his Hyundai, holding on to win Rally Argentina by 14.3 seconds from championship leader Sébastien Ogier.

It's the first victory for a New Zealand driver in the WRC's 43-year history, and means the nation joins a select group by becoming only the 17th country to have a WRC round winner.

Paddon delivered the drive of his life on the very last challenge of the rally - the famed, mountainous, rock-strewn El Condor special stage to wrench the rally victory from three-time champion Ogier.

Paddon and and his co-driver John Kennard, from Blenheim, started Sunday's final three-stage leg of Rally Argentina in the lead with a margin of 29.8 seconds over Ogier.

The first fog-affected run through El Condor saw Ogier take 7.4 seconds out of Paddon's lead as Paddon lost precious seconds with a gear-change issue.

Special stage 17 saw Ogier deliver a blistering run which cut Paddon's lead to a mere 2.6 seconds with just the final power stage to go.

But Paddon stood up to the Frenchman's challenge, saying he drove the wheels off his Hyundai to secure not only his first power stage win, but also his debut WRC rally win.

"It's an amazing feeling, to win like this, on the last stage where the odds were a little bit against us," said Paddon at the rally finish.

"We lost a lot of time in the previous stage and just over two seconds margin going into that last one - I didn't have a lot of confidence, but we just pushed like hell.

"We've worked a lot on that stage in the three weeks before the rally because I've not been particularly strong on the tight and twisty stages.

"Everyone in the team, at the rallies and at Alzenau, thoroughly deserves this result. I am sure it's the start of a lot more to come!

"I am thankful for everyone who has supported us back home in New Zealand and for all the positive messages we've received this weekend."

Hayden Paddon on his way to his victory in Argentina

Hayden Paddon on his way to his victory in Argentina Photo: Timo Anis

In what has been a history-making weekend of competition, Paddon won five WRC stages, bringing his total WRC stage victories to 15.

He's the second driver from the Southern Hemisphere to win a WRC round (the first being Argentina's Jorge Recalde who won his home rally in a Lancia in 1988 and in again in a drivers-only round in 1995).

Ogier extended his championship lead in his Volkswagen, the Frenchman finishing the tough four-day gravel rally near Villa Carlos Paz 50.9 seconds ahead of team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen.

Paddon, originally from Geraldine, now holds second place in the WRC drivers' championship with 57 points to Ogier's 96 - the highest-ever championship position for a Kiwi rally driver.

Paddon also won the final stage to claim three bonus points. Team-mate Dani Sordo took two points for second, while Ogier claimed the final point in third.

It's also the first win for Hyundai on gravel.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs

We have regular online commentary of local and international sport.