Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard continued their podium streak in the European Rally Championship over the weekend by finishing third in a tight Rally di Roma Capitale. Closest championship rival Mārtiṇš Sesks had a rolled over on SS4, meaning Paddon now holds a 55-point advantage with just two rounds to run.
“Overall, it’s been a very good weekend with the final result more than we expected against the level of competition here,” says Paddon. “The team, John, everyone did a great job as part of securing this result.
“There are so many fast drivers here and, in comparison, we were lacking experience on these stages. So we were happy to see how competitive we were on day one, amongst the top five. On Saturday afternoon, we made a small mistake and went wide, which broke the rear suspension. We were lucky to survive that moment as it looked like the damage could have been worse than what it was. Fortunately, we were able to repair it and get back to service, but obviously, we dropped a couple of positions.
The rally began on the spectacular Colosseo Aci Roma, around the central area of Rome, with the Colosseum as the backdrop. Paddon, driving BRC Racing Team’s Hyundai i20 N, placed ninth but only lost 1.8 seconds on the leader.
On Saturday’s opening stage, he would go fourth quickest, which he would repeat on SS3 before placing seventh on SS4 to sit fourth overall at lunchtime on the first full day.
He would place seventh on SS5 before a small mistake on SS6 threatened to undo their progress, but the team were able to repair the damaged left-rear suspension to take to the final stage and limit their losses.
They would finish the day sixth overall, 56 seconds behind the leader.
Sunday began with fourth on SS8 before Paddon would take his first stage victory the very next run, before placing third on SS10 to move into fourth at lunch on the final day.
Third place on SS11 and another stage win on SS12 put them third overall after podium-sitter Yoann Bonato damaged a wheel. Seventh on the rally-concluding Fiuggi Power Stage, was enough for the Kiwi to hold the podium, finishing 53.8 seconds off the win and 30.7 seconds behind second.
“The target on Sunday was to get back to P4,” said Paddon. “With problems for others, we got back into fourth overall. Being able to push today on a couple of new-to-all stages and get two stage wins helped us get into third overall.
“Third is absolutely perfect for the championship. We’ve got a pretty good lead now, but the job’s not done. We need to go the next rally with the same preparation and focus to try and wrap up the championship in Baram.”
Andrea Crugnola was the rally winner, while Giandomenico Basso was the runner-up.
Sesks remains second in the ERC standings despite his DNF, as third-placed Mads Ostberg was not present at the event. Competitors have their worst round removed off the standings as a drop round, meaning Sesks remains in contention.
Barum Czech Rally Zlin is the next event on the calendar on August 19-20, followed by the season finale at Iv. Rally Hungary on October 7-8.
Header Image: European Rally Championship