Paddon edges van Gisbergen to Rally BOP win
Sunday 15th October, 2023 - 5:22pm
Hayden Paddon has won a seventh New Zealand Rally Championship title with victory in Rally Bay of Plenty, by a margin of less than 30 seconds over Shane van Gisbergen.
It was only van Gisbergen who stood between Paddon and a sweep of the 11 stages, with the 2023 Bathurst 1000 winner prevailing in three stages, including the second run through the iconic Manawahe test.
Just 29.6s separated them on the leaderboard once the event came to a close, with Ben Hunt third at just over two minutes further back.
Paddon, driving a Hyundai i20 N Rally2, had started the event battling Raana Horan for New Zealand Rally Championship honours, but the contest was over early.
Horan crashed into a bank and broke a suspension arm on his Skoda Fabia R5 evo in just the second stage of the rally, the first run through Manawahe.
He would salvage second in the championship by returning in Special Stage 3 and ultimately being classified an event finisher, albeit in 41st position.
Hunt grabbed a podium despite running his own Fabia R5 down an escape road during the afternoon.
For van Gisbergen, who has made several starts in NZRC this season in an AP4-spec Audi S1, the weekend could be his last rally outing for some time.
The New Zealander made his World Rally Championship debut in his home event last season, taking a podium in the WRC2 class.
However, he moves to the United States next year to embark on a career in NASCAR, and while precise details have not been confirmed, van Gisbergen is slated to race in the top four national tiers.
Rally BOP is not his last extra-curricular activity this year, however, with the three-time Supercars champion to drive a Brabham BT62 in the Highlands 6 Hour in early November as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations of the Tony Quinn-owned track.
That event will unfold on the weekend after the Boost Mobile Gold Coast 500, which takes place on October 27-29, when van Gisbergen will be looking to make further inroads on Brodie Kostecki’s 131-point championship lead after his victory in the Great Race.