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Paddon a clear leader in NZRC Otago battle

Hayden Paddon and John Kennard’s golden run of form has continued, completing the opening day of action at the Winmax Brakes Otago Rally well ahead of their nearest rivals.

Their Hyundai i20 N Rally2 is competing at the Otago Rally for the first time, and after winning the first round of the European Rally Championship just a fortnight ago, the pair look likely to take another win.

From the opening stage, the Kiwi star was on song and in the lead of the New Zealand Rally Championship field. The opening stage, Ridge Road, enabled Paddon to open the rally with a lead of 27.5 seconds, and he expanded the lead on each stage of the day. 

Behind Paddon, the gaps are large. Almost a minute separates each position from second through four.

The man nearest to the rally lead is Ari Pettigrew, who has continued on his strong form from 2023. The Cromwell driver, and employee of the leader’s Paddon Racing Group, is two minutes behind the Paddon, and at this stage, is not under pressure from the crew in third.

Ben Hunt and Tony Rawstorn are there in third in the Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo, ahead of Emma Gilmour and Claire Mole’s Citroen.

Gilmour, a Dunedin local, is debuting her Citroen C3 Rally2 this weekend and is beginning yet another NZRC campaign as she juggles a busy schedule around the world.

She’s under pressure from behind, though, with a slow time on the Shag Valley Back Road test, the penultimate of the day, putting her within reach of her rival.

Toyota driver, Jack Hawkeswood, is just 4.7 seconds behind her, and is driving well on what has been a strong day for he and Jeff Cress.

In his Toyota GR Yaris AP4, Hawkeswood is continuing to learn and gain experience in the car, and will be looking to continue this through Sunday with a chance of claiming a top five place.

The Fords of Todd Bawden and Robbie Stokes are sixth and seventh and will be in a battle with Holden driver Josh Marston once Sunday begins. The trio are spread by just 15 seconds.

A man who lost time after a promising start was Raana Horan. He was running as high as the top five early in the day, and has been setting strong stage times, however, lost over four minutes in penalties on the Danseys Pass test.

Richie Dalton, the man who finished third in the Australian Rally Championship in 2022, hit a wooden post in his rented Skoda Fabia R5 and could not complete the day’s action, with the ex-pat Irishman hoping to rejoin the action on Sunday.

More than 130 competitive kilometres make up Sunday’s second leg, where crews will transport south of Dunedin for seven special stages.

Waihola forms as the ‘hub’ for day two, where two service breaks will give teams the chance to regroup after some of the most picturesque stages of the event.

The Rally is grateful for the support of Dunedin City Council Premier Event funding.

NZRC Standings after day one

1. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard, Hyundai i20 N Rally2, 1:08:15.1

2. Ari Pettigrew/Jason Farmer, Holden Barina AP4, +1m59.8s

3. Ben Hunt/Tony Rawstorn, Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo, +2m48.4s

4. Emma Gilmour/Claire Mole, Citroen C3 Rally2, +3m52.1s

5. Jack Hawkeswood/Jeff Cress, Toyota GR Yaris, +3m56.8s

6. Todd Bawden/Katrina Renshaw, Ford Fiesta Rally2, +4m47.6s

7. Robbie Stokes/Dave Neill, Ford Fiesta AP4, +4m58.9s

8. Josh Marston/Andrew Graves, Holden Barina AP4, +5m19.4s

9. Raana Horan/ M Connor, Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo, +7m32.1s

10. Clinton Cunningham/Noel Moloney, Skoda Fabia R5, +9m35.5s

Photos: Peter Whitten

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