Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard fought back to secure fourth place in Rally Australia after a puncture ruined their hopes of a podium finish at the final event of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship season.
Sunday’s final day of action in Australia comprised five special stages and Paddon was focused on improving on the third position he held at the end Saturday. Securing the third-quickest time on Sunday’s opening 6.2km stage, Paddon said he wasn’t going down without trying. Unfortunately, on the next stage – the day’s longest at 30.58km – they went wide and touched a bank.
“This pushed the tyre off the rim and I had to do 20 k’s on a flat tyre and lost almost a minute,” said Paddon, who then dropped from third to fifth allowing Hyundai team-mates Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo to pass him on the overall standings.
Refocusing on the end result, Paddon and Kennard then set the second fastest time on the penultimate stage to take fourth place back from Sordo and thus secure their third consecutive fourth place of the 2016 season.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow, not coming home with a podium today. We sort of had it in the bag, and unfortunately made a bit of a mistake on the long stage. We were trying to put a bit of pressure on the guys up front, but it sort of bit us back and we got a puncture.
“But fourth is still okay and there are a lot of positives to take out of the weekend. We made some good improvements over last year and are certainly going to come back stronger in the New Year. I’m more determined than ever to make some improvements and get the results we should have had this year for next year.”
The fourth place in Australia secured fourth place in the drivers’ and co-drivers’ championships for Paddon and Kennard respectively. These are the best-ever results for New Zealand competitors in world rallying.
Rally Australia represented the final WRC outing for Hyundai’s New Generation i20 WRC car with new technical regulations and a brand-new car being introduced for the 2017 championship. With two wins and second place in the manufacturers’ championship, 2016 has been Hyundai Motorsport’s most competitive season in the WRC, topped off with the team’s maiden Australian top-three result.
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “We knew we’d be in for a thrilling final day. There were a few final twists in the tale of the 2016 season, but overall we can be satisfied with our debut Australian podium. Well done to Thierry and Nicolas on their performance and claiming second place in the drivers and co-drivers’ championships. It was a pity for Hayden that his incident this morning prevented a push for victory. Dani, too, was also unfortunate not to be able to fight for a better result.
“As a team, we have had a strong year. The New Generation i20 WRC has done us proud but it’s the result of hard work by the entire team. We have shown a lot of progress and maturity this year, and I am personally grateful to every individual member of Hyundai Motorsport for their valuable contributions. I would also like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Volkswagen Motorsport for being such fierce competitors. They have set the benchmark very high. We will miss competing against them, but will continue to be inspired by their achievements.”
Paddon and Hayden Paddon RallySport Global (HPRG) Ltd appreciates the support of their exclusive partners, Hyundai New Zealand, Pak’nSave and Z Energy and associate sponsors Scott Sports and All About Signs Timaru.