Hayden Paddon has become the first New Zealander and only the second driver from the Southern Hemisphere to win at World Rally Championship level, with a gutsy victory at Rally Argentina.
Paddon’s performance not only included victory, but he also set the fastest time on the Power Stage to gain three bonus points and hold-off defending three-time world champion Sebastien Ogier in the process.
The Kiwi not only repaid the faith shown in him by Hyundai, but the third overall victory for the Korean manufacturer in the WRC, and first for the New Generation i20, also means he is now the leading driver in the squad.
With fellow New Zealander John Kennard alongside, Paddon’s final winning margin was 14.3 seconds.
Paddon saw his 29.8s lead after Leg 2 reduced to just 2.6s after a tough two stages in SS16 (El Condor – Copina) and SS17 (Mina Clavero – Giulio Cesare) with a gearbox glitch.
The foggy conditions in the opening stage forced drivers to take a cautious approach but despite the mounting pressure, the Kiwi crew dug deep to produce the stage performance of the weekend in the repeat of El Condor.
Maximum points for the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team also sees Paddon move up into second in the Drivers’ Championship.
“I can’t believe it! I really didn’t think we were going to be able to hang on,” said Paddon.
“It all came down to the Power Stage and we pushed really hard. It was particularly special to pull out that performance on El Condor.
“We’ve worked a lot on that stage because I’ve not been particularly strong on the tight and twisty stages.
“We drove the wheels off the car. It’s a lot to take in at the moment. It’s a fantastic result for me, John and the whole team.
“A huge amount of work has gone into the New Generation i20 WRC. I knew from the first test that we could win with it.
“I just didn’t quite expect it to be so soon. 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 NZ and for all the positive messages we’ve received this weekend.”
The victory is important for Hyundai, which is continuing to push the dominant Volkswagen factory team.
It is the team’s first win since Rallye Deutschland in 2014 and just as important was the Power Stage performance which saw Dani Sordo set the second-fastest time.
“This is a rally weekend that we will never forget! Hayden has put in the performance of his career to take one of the most popular victories we’ve seen in WRC in recent times,” said Team Principal Michel Nandan.
“His pace and commitment in the Power Stage was impressive; he and John both deserve this win.
“It’s fantastic for all of us at Hyundai Motorsport. It is our second win in WRC but the first with our New Generation i20 WRC in only its fourth event.
“We’ve worked so hard on this car so to see the fruit of our work is very special.
“We have never had a one-two in the Power Stage before, so that was just the icing on the cake.”
In terms of stats, in the 40-year history of the World Rally Championship a total of 546 rounds have been held prior to Argentina. New Zealand joins a select group by becoming only the 17th country to have a WRC round winner.
The only other driver from the Southern Hemisphere to win at WRC level is Argentina’s Jorge Recalde; who won his home rally in a Lancia in 1988 in a Drivers Only round in 1995.
Paddon’s win came in his 52nd WRC start and the 57th top level event for Kennard.
At 57 years of age, Kennard has also become the oldest co-driver to win a round.
The previous oldest was Arne Hertz (Sweden), who was 52 when he co-drove Armin Schwarz to victory in Spain in 1991.
The fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Rally de Portugal, takes place 19-22 May.
VIDEO: Hyundai Final Day Wrap
VIDEO: Paddon speaks and celebrates his first WRC win
FINAL POSITIONS – Rally Argentina
|1||Hayden Paddon||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai||3:40:59.9|
|2||Sebastien Ogier||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen||+0:14.3|
|3||Andreas Mikkelsen||Volkswagen Motorsport II||Volkswagen||+1:05.2|
|4||Dani Sordo||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai||+1:17.1|
|5||Mads Ostberg||M-Sport World Rally Team||Ford||+4:56.7|
|6||Thierry Neuville||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai||+9:29.5|
|8||Eric Camilli||M-Sport World Rally Team||Ford||+10:16.0|
|3.||M-Sport World Rally Team||62|
|4.||Hyundai Motorsport N||49|
|5.||Volkswagen Motorsport II||45|
|6.||DMack World Rally Team||30|
|7.||Jipocar Czech National Team||6|