Kiwi rally ace Hayden Paddon has claimed an unrivalled, yet largely expected, City of Auckland Rally win.
Paddon and co-driver John Kennard eased their Hyundai i20 AP4 machine to a stunning 2m40s win as the pair led from daybreak at the first stage in the Kaipara Hills and consolidating their lead through each stage before ending the day with back-to-back runs at Jack’s Ridge.
It could well have been an even bigger margin of victory for Paddon as only seven of the scheduled eight stages proceeded as planned. Officials cancelled the day’s third stage at Riverhead due to safety grounds.
The event showcased some of the roads that were set to be used for the return of the World Rally Championship in September. It certainly brought out plenty of Kiwi rally fans getting their first taste of rallying action post-lockdown as they squabbled over the best viewing spots to catch a glimpse of some of New Zealand’s best in action.
Runner’s up was Raana Horan in the Skoda Fabia R5. Despite only managing to end up a frustrating eighth overall in the morning’s opening leg, Horan and co-driver Michael Connor bounced back with an impressive flourish to finish second in each subsequent stage.
While minutes determined the difference between first and second, tenths were the dictating factor in who clinched the final step on the rostrum. A strong run in the sole Riverhead stage had Dylan Turner (Audi S1 AP4) edge ahead of Emma Gilmour (Suzuki Swift AP4).
Now needing to find two-seconds on Turner over the final two stages, both at Jack’s Ridge, Gilmour fell agonisingly shy as Turner clung on with a three-tenths buffer.
Winner in Class D2 was Haydn Mackenzie in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 which was just two-seconds adrift of a standout top-five overall result.
Shane van Gisbergen was competing in his first rally event in New Zealand for some time. But the 2016 Supercars champion looked right at home as he convincingly secured top honours in Class C and 15th overall.
Other class winners were Marcus van Klink (Mazda RX8 – 21st overall) in Class B, Matt Adams (Mitsubishi Galant VR4 – 22nd overall) in Class E, and Wayne Rowberry (Toyota Starlet – 26th overall).
The rally wasn’t without any retirements with the DNF list featuring some of the pre-event favourites. Matt and Nicole Summerfield were in contention for a commendable result after earning consecutive fourth-place finishes at Puhoi and Riverhead. However, they recorded a costly DNF in the day’s final stage.
Two-time national champion Ben Hunt was another unexpected name to end up on the retirement list, again dropping out in the day’s final stage.
Tomorrow will see the City of Auckland field plus many notable guests do battle in the inaugural Battle of Jack’s Ridge rally sprint in Whitford.