Paddon holds overnight lead at International Rally of Whangārei
New Zealand driver pairing Hayden Paddon and John Kennard hold more than a two minute lead after the first of two days for the 2023 International Rally of Whangārei – a round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC).
First of 47 cars away this morning, Paddon set fastest time on all 10 of the competitive stages held – including the two city-side Pohe Island tests. Predictably fast, the Hyundai i20N Rally 2 driver said the objective was to accrue as many points as possible toward their Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) title defence.
Behind Paddon is Ben Hunt and Tony Rawstorn (Skoda Rally 2) while Rana Horan/Michael O’Connor (Skoda Rally 2) are a further 29seconds behind. Top two-wheel drive competitor was Dylan and Bayden Thomson in a Ford Fiesta Rally 4 car, sitting eighth overall, by four seconds.
Contesting eight special stage sections to the north of host city Whangārei the clear dry weather provided a level playing field for the competing teams. However, it was over before it began for V8 Supercar driver Shane van Gisbergen and co-driver Glen Weston when their Audi S3 AP4 car stopped on the way to the first stage of the event. A later diagnosed main electrical system fault was replaced with the module out of a spare car located in Auckland. Missing the bulk of the day’s competition van Gisbergen re-joined for the short Pohe Island 1.15km stage – to confirm the car was set for Sunday.
Of the 47 teams that started the day – 32 finished, the majority retiring with mechanical issues. From the eight in the international section of the event only Christchurch’s Robbie Stokes and co-driver Dave Neill didn’t get to the finish. Their Ford Fiesta AP4 retired in the opening 13.56km test when it overheated.
Sunday’s six remaining stages take the remaining teams south of Whangārei. Paddon will again be first car away, departing at 7am. Tackling three quick-fire stages the teams will return from 10:39am for a service break at the Pohe Island service park before repeating the loop in the early afternoon. They return to Whangarei for a final service and clean before travelling to the town basin location of Pūtahi Park.
The weekend awards ceremony starts from 3pm and is free to view by spectators.
Along with the winner’s trophy and prize money, the first recipient of the Ken Block Memorial trophy will be awarded – to a driver selected by the organisers who competed in the same spirit the late rally star did.
The event counts toward the APRC, Pacific Cup and NZRC titles. Spectator tickets start at $10. Full ticketing information can be found on the Spectator page.