Hayden Paddon wins Production Class World Championship
Kiwi race ace Hayden Paddon has done it, he’s taken out the Production Class of the World Rally Championship for 2011. Paddon and his trusty Subaru WRX STI took the title, with two rounds to spare, after winning the production category at Rally Australia yesterday.
Paddon has taken the title in emphatic fashion with four consecutive category wins. He still has two PWRC events to contest this season but, with a perfect score of 100 points to his credit, the Subaru driver can’t be beaten.
Geraldine’s Paddon and co-driver John Kennard (Blenheim) finished one and a half minutes in front of closest rival Michael Kosciuszko of Poland despite hitting a Wallaby and being slowed by a broken inter cooler pipe on Saturday.
It’s the fourth time in four starts they have won the production class this year, having also stood on the top of the podium at Portugal, Argentina and Finland.
Paddon is now 50 points in front of his closest challenger for the season the Czech Republic’s Martin Semerad who was not competing in the Coffs Harbour event.
Even if Semerad was to win the last two rounds of the series with Paddon scoring no points, they would still only be tied, with Paddon taking the title thanks to his greater number of victories.
“It’s awesome,” said Paddon. ‘A few months ago we had no money and no campaign but thanks to the people back in New Zealand we’ve made it. Winning the title was the target, but I didn’t think we would achieve it so quickly.”
Paddon used the same Subaru that he campaigned to win three rounds of the New Zealand championship with his Kiwi crew providing support. His other wins have come with the Belgian Symtech team who will be running a similar car for him in next month’s Rally of Spain and in Wales in November.
“Next year we’ll hopefully be back with something bigger, faster and better.”
At the start of today’s stages Paddon was only three seconds in front of Kosciuszko thanks to his delays on Saturday. He immediately set about building a more secure lead, beating the Pole by 16 seconds on the day’s first stage.
He was a second a kilometre faster on the long 30 kms second stage to extend his margin to a more comfortable 49 seconds. “It wasn’t easy,” said Paddon. “The grip levels were constantly changing on the stages and it was hard to get into a rhythm.”
By the lunch break the margin was up to 51 seconds before they repeated the same three stages again. “I started hearing rattles in the car I’ve never heard before,” said a somewhat nervous Paddon. “But we just had to drive with our heads.”
Even so his winning margin increased in the afternoon, albeit by smaller quantities compared to the morning. “We’ve had great support from back home,” said Paddon, whose direct service team was raucously backed by a 70 strong supporter’s tour.
With his outstanding drive to sixth overall in the rally, Paddon also picked up a few points in the overall World Rally Championship, the first time this season a production class driver has achieved the feat against the much faster modified cars run by the works teams.
When asked how hard was it for him, as a young Kiwi driver, to make his way into the World Rally Championship, Paddon replied: “It has definitely been hard. Possum Bourne was a rally legend in New Zealand for a long time and along with a lot of other people, I looked up to him and when he passed away rallying took a bit of a hit back home. There has never been a set pathway for Kiwi drivers to make their way to the WRC, so that has been the hardest thing. Also finding the budget has always been an issue, there are some big companies in New Zealand but with the global crisis it is hard to find financial back-up.