Monday, Jun 11 06:55am
AUTHOR: Matthew Hansen

Hayden Paddon gains confidence with fourth-place finish in Italy

After a difficult 2018 World Rally Championship season start, Hayden Paddon has finished one spot shy of the podium at Rally Italia Sardegna — successfully fending off the challenge from Mads Østberg across day three's stages.


It's his first points-finish at the venue in three attempts, and helps Hyundai Motorsport extend their lead of the manufacturers standings. On the other side of the Hyundai camp, Thierry Neuville scooped a memorable victory after snatching the rally lead on the final stage to pip Sébastien Ogier by a mere seven tenths of a second. 


“A difficult weekend for us, but a positive end to the rally for the team,” Paddon said.


“We wanted more from this rally, but to take fourth place gives us important confidence for the coming events. Things didn’t really click from the first stages, and we weren’t able to replicate the positive feeling we had from shakedown.


“Still, it’s nice to finish this event for the first time in three years, and to score important points for the team in the manufacturers’ championship. We will look to build from here, and to try and take a few more risks.”


Paddon's defence of fourth proved to be a simple affair. The Geraldine driver was quicker than Østberg in all of the final day's stages. In the end he finished 15.7-seconds ahead of the Norweigan and 58.9-seconds behind Esapekka Lappi in third. 


At the front, Neuville and Ogier's epic battle came to a head at the power stage. Ogier entered it with an eight-tenth lead, but a couple of minor errors across the 7km stage (coupled with an incredibly quick Neuville effort) saw the balance swing in favour of the Hyundai pilot. He now leads Ogier in the points by 27 points. 


“I can’t believe it! We knew we had to give it everything we had this morning, and it was a truly fantastic fight with Sébastien,” said Neuville.


“The gap at the end was so small and we left absolutely nothing behind. We kept pushing as hard as we could without doing anything stupid. Battling against Séb is one of the most difficult things to do, so this is a precious victory.


“Starting first on the road on Friday put us at a disadvantage. The rain helped a bit but we never gave up and we can share in one of the finest wins of our career. Leading both championships heading into the break gives us all the motivation we need for the second half of the season.”


The series now travels to round eight of the championship in Finland, which takes place on July 26–29.


Photo: Hyundai Motorsport

1. Neuville/Gilsoul  3:24:25.0
2. Ogier/Ingrassia  +0.8
3. Lappi/Janne  +1:52.1
4. Paddon/Marshall  +2:45.6
5. Østberg/Eriksen  +3:00.9
6. Breen/Martin  +4:24.4
7. Latvala/Anttila  +11:17.3
8. Tänak/Järveoja  +12:37.4
9. Kopecky/Dresler  +12:46.2
10. Procop/Tomanek  +15:21.3