3 Jul 2017

Paddon gets first podium in 12 months

6:54 am on 3 July 2017

New Zealand rally driver Hayden Paddon has finished second in Rally Poland, his best result of the 2017 World Rally Championship season.

New Zealand rally driver Hayden Paddon.

New Zealand rally driver Hayden Paddon. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

It was a one-two finish for the Hyundai team with Belgian Thierry Neuville winning, his third victory of the season.

Neuville is now just 11 points behind championship leader Sebastien Ogier who finished third in his Ford.

It was Neuville's third win in eight rallies and came after a hard-fought battle with Estonian Ott Taenak, Ogier's team-mate, who had led on the last day only to hit a tree and retire.

Paddon ended a torrid 12 months since his last podium. The Kiwi could not match the pace of the early starters on the rain-soaked first day, but an error-free event combined with several stage wins as conditions improved brought its reward.

After only three events together as a new crew, Paddon and Sebastian Marshall celebrated their first-ever podium finish.

"To finish on the podium is more than we expected, especially after the rally started on Friday morning when we found ourselves 40 seconds back," said Paddon.

"Since then the rally's gone very well. We stayed out of trouble and then today was about consolidating. We had a big gap in front and behind, and we just wanted to bring home a podium result. Unfortunate for Ott [Tanak] who had a small crash, which meant we were able to pick up second and one-two for the team.

"It's a massive relief. The biggest thing of this [result] is it's been 12 months since we were last on the podium and this year's been some of the hardest times of my life. It's been very difficult and this weekend has helped me lower the shoulders and relax a little bit. [This] gives us a bit of momentum now that we can build on to work towards future rallies."

Paddon has improved one place in the overall standings to seventh.

Ogier has 160 points to Neuville's 149 while Latvala is on 112.

The next rally is in Finland at the end of the month.