After accepting the award for winning his own event, Hayden Paddon offered a slightly bashful grin.
Driving his Hyundai i20 AP4+ in hillclimb specification, he crushed all comers – all 77 of them – in the inaugural Ben Nevis Station Golden 1200 Hillclimb in Central Otago, New Zealand this weekend.
The 2016 Rally Argentina winner’s combined best time from Saturday and Sunday was a 5m49.3s compared with Sloan Cox, who managed the next best time of 6m13.5s. Across a combined run of 7.45 miles, Paddon took 24.2s out of his Mitsubishi-driving rival.
“I probably had an unfair advantage,” said Paddon, “but you’ve got to take it when you can. Huge thanks to everyone who’s been part of it. We’ve had our challenges over the last few days so big thanks to Roger, Norm, Craig and everyone whose volunteered to make the event happen in such a short space of time. There’s certainly a lot more we can improve on for the future to be bigger and better.”
Sunday’s action was cut short, with the sixth and final run of the weekend dropped when the weather closed in on the gravel road which climbs from 540 to 1200 metres.
Paddon added: “It’s a shame we couldn’t get through all the runs today but with the wet conditions, we’ve done pretty well to get through five runs in total.”
With victory done, Paddon could look forward to the rest of the season and a return to the same road next year.
“We’ve set a benchmark for next year with yesterday’s best time,” said Paddon.
“The Hyundai has run absolutely faultlessly so huge thanks to the guys. Now we’ve got this engine finally sorted, we’ll be able to wind the wick up for other events this year. The driving was the easiest part of the weekend to be fair.”
Runner-up Cox was full of praise for the event, saying: “It’s an awesome bit of road. Today was a new experience with this car in the rain and it was pretty wicked, heaps of grip. I’m definitely looking forward to more events like this.”
Paddon will detune the i20 in time for next month’s Otago Rally (April 3-5). The Dunedin event is the opening round of both the New Zealand and Asia Pacific Rally Championship Pacific Cup series.