Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon and John Kennard took an absolutely thrilling win and a massive battle with Ogier on Rally Argentina becoming the first pair from NZ to win WRC
Hayden Paddon scored his first WRC victory at YPF Rally Argentina on Sunday afternoon after fighting off world champion Sébastien Ogier in a thrilling finale to a scintillating last day duel.
The pair were separated by just 2.6sec ahead of the final legendary El Condor speed test, but Paddon stunned the Frenchman to hurtle down the rock-strewn mountain almost 12sec faster and secure a 14.3sec winning margin in his Hyundai i20.
He became the first New Zealand driver to win a WRC round in the championship’s 43-year history and crushed Volkswagen’s ambitions of securing an unprecedented 13 consecutive victories.
“I can’t believe it, I really didn’t think I stood a chance before the last stage after losing time to Ogier this morning,” said Paddon, who celebrated his 29th birthday the day before the start. “I gave that last stage everything I had. Tight and twisty roads like El Condor aren’t my strength but I drove the stage of my life.”
Paddon started the final leg with a 29.8sec advantage after taking the lead yesterday when Jari-Matti Latvala crashed. Gearchange glitches cost valuable seconds in the opening speed test before Ogier threw caution to the wind in the penultimate stage, eating into Paddon’s lead to set up a dramatic ending.
“The last stage was incredibly rough,” said Volkswagen Polo R pilot Ogier. “I had a clean drive but I didn’t dare take the maximum risk because there were big ruts. Well done to him, he did a great job on the last stage.”
Ogier was almost 12 seconds slower than Paddon through El Condor
Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen completed the podium a further 50.9sec behind after surviving a spin in the foggy first pass through El Condor this morning. However, he dropped out of the top three in the championship standings as Paddon vaulted into second.
Dani Sordo finished 11.9sec further back in fourth in another i20 with Mads Østberg a distant fifth in a Ford Fiesta RS, despite going off the road this morning following a pace note mix-up.
The top six in the four-day rally, which covered 364.68km of rough road competition near Villa Carlos Paz, was completed by Thierry Neuville, who recovered well after losing several minutes on Friday with a faulty fuel connection.
Argentina’s Marcos Ligato delighted home fans by finishing seventh in a DS 3 while Eric Camilli’s patient approach secured eighth after a troublefree rally for the first time this season. Henning Solberg and WRC 2 winner Nicolas Fuchs completed the leaderboard.
The championship returns to Europe after consecutive rounds in the Americas when Matosinhos hosts Vodafone Rally de Portugal (19 – 22 May).
Nicolas Fuchs fought back from opening day dramas to win WRC 2 at YPF Rally Argentina on Sunday afternoon.
The Peruvian was the early pacesetter before a broken steering pump in his Ford Fiesta R5 cost two minutes, co-driver Fernando Mussano changing gear as Fuchs wrestled with the steering wheel. He later had to stop and change a puncture, tumbling to fourth.
But the rough gravel speed tests also took their toll on his rivals and he battled up the order to regain the lead yesterday when Abdulaziz Al Kuwari rolled. After that it was a matter of avoiding problems for Fuchs rather than showing outright pace and he won by 4min 36.9sec.
Pole Hubert Ptaszek also dropped time with punctures but the Peugeot 208 T16 R5 driver maintained a consistent pace to take second and now lies second in the points after four rounds.
Third for Al-Kuwari was scant reward having been on course for victory but it netted a strong haul of points for the Skoda Fabia R5 driver on his season debut.
Championship leader Elfyn Evans finished fourth in a Fiesta R5, the Welshman quickest through all three of today’s special stages in the Traslasierra mountains. However, electrical problems sidelined him on Friday and the time penalties left him too far back to recover, but his series lead remained intact.
Augusto Bestard was the only other finisher in fifth, perseverance paying off for the Paraguayan after he failed to finish both Friday and Saturday’s legs.