Paddon holds commanding rally lead at day’s end
Heading the ENEOS International Rally of Whangarei after Saturday’s leg of competition, four-time winner Hayden Paddon and co-driver Samantha Gray hold a near three minute lead in their Hyundai i20 AP4 over the chasing field.
The second round of the 2019 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), today’s eight special stage tests were held north of New Zealand’s host city Whangarei. Fine calm weather showcased the region to the international audience following the multi-national field.
“It is good to be nearly three minutes up after the driveshaft problem that lost us nearly a minute earlier in the day,” said Paddon. “Samantha has been doing a really good job and we’ve been able to get a few stage records – so all the boxes have been ticked. The road conditions are very good – hard dry and fast.”
In second, Dave Holder and co-driver Jason Farmer had no answer to Paddon’s raw pace in their Holden Barina AP4, settling instead for meeting their own targets as they returned to the overnight park.
“It has been a steady day for us – with a few teething issues between stages that kept us busy. We had a target to stay within a second/kilometre of Hayden and we’ve been keeping that,” said Holder.
Third overall was leading Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) contender Ben Hunt and Tony Rawstorn in a production Subaru. A battle for the podium has seen a continual swapping of positions with pseudo local Stephen Barker and Chris MacIver in a Mitsubishi EVO 9 edged out on the final stage when he was caught in the dust of a fellow competitor.
A total of 39 finished the leg, that started on Friday evening with a double-run of the Pohe Island Super Special Stage. Those that didn’t complete the day include US based Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino in the Ford Escort Cosworth, Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour and Ben Searcy (Suzuki Swift Maxi) and Ireland’s Frank and Lauren Kelly (Ford Escort MKII).
Chasing APRC competitors included Kiwi’s Andrew Hawkeswood/Jeff Cress (Mazda 2 AP4), 9th overall, Jack Hawkeswood/Alex Parkin (Mazda 2 AP4), 11th overall, Mike Young/Malcolm Read (Toyota Yaris), 12th overall while Japan’s Suguru Kawana/Noriko Takeshita (Toyota Vitz) are placed 29th.
Attention now turns to Sunday’s remaining leg of the competition. A further eight stages take teams south of Whangarei. Starting with the 15.23km ‘Tangihua’ south of Whatitiri, then the 16.40km ‘Waiotira’, 8.32km ‘Millbrook’ and infamous 22.55km ‘Waipu Caves’. Teams then return to Whangarei for a service break and then repeat the course, returning for a ceremonial finish at the Quayside Town Basin from 3pm.
Spectators can enjoy free access to the service park (adjacent to the Northland Events Centre, Port Rd side) and ceremonial finish (Quayside Town Basin).
Access to the rural stage spectator points is $10 (under 15-aged kids are free).
Spectators are reminded to respect the direction of the local community group marshals, who are assisting the event with support of the Whangarei District Council and Far North District Council.