Hayden Paddon has won New Zealand’s Winmax Otago Rally for a ninth time, breaking several stage records along the way to seal victory over Ben Hunt as Emma Gilmour dropped off the podium.
Battling with small issues including a broken front-right driveshaft and then a puncture on the opening day, Paddon had a much smoother run on Sunday to win all eight of the day’s stages.
After lowering his own benchmark time on the Stoneburn stage on Saturday, Paddon managed to eclipse himself on over half of day two’s stages, managing record runs on Black Rock, Waipori Gorge, Whare Flat, Taieri Beach and Kuri Bush as well as setting the benchmark on the brand-new Emerald Heights test too.
Paddon won the event, his favorite in the New Zealand Rally Championship, by 5m27.1s over 2015 and ’19 NZ Rally champion Hunt who was the only driver to nick a stage win from former works World Rally Championship driver Paddon.
Driving a brand-new Fabia Rally2 evo from Škoda Motorsport, Hunt was consistently second-best to Paddon and was left pleased with his performance given how different his new car is to his old Subaru WRX STI.
Third place went to another Škoda, driven by Raana Horan, who ended up 1m29s in arrears of Hunt after a trouble-free weekend. However that was a place McLaren Extreme E driver Gilmour had made her own on the first day before it unraveled on day two.
Gilmour was six minutes late out of morning service due to a fluid leak in the braking system of her Suzuki Swift AP4, adding one minute to her rally time which immediately dumped her from third to seventh before she had even turned a wheel on Sunday.
But, undeterred, Gilmour began her fightback and started setting a string of strong stage times, rising to fourth after two of the day’s tests – benefiting when Ford Fiesta AP4 pilot Robbie Stokes lost a minute.
Gilmour had her eyes set on reclaiming a podium place but searing pace from the recovering Stokes put paid to those hopes. She therefore had to settle for fifth place behind last year’s New Zealand Mainland Rally Series winner Stokes who missed out on a rostrum finish by just 10.1s.
Ari Pettigrew was embroiled in a close battle on his first start in a Holden Barina AP4 but ultimately lost out on sixth place to Todd Bawden’s Ford Fiesta Rally2 by a slender 10.3s.
Dylan Turner (Audi S1 AP4), Regan Ross (Ford Fiesta R5) – who took the Allcomers win – and Jeff Ward (Subaru Impreza WRX) rounding out the top 10.
Deane Buist held onto the lead he built up on Saturday in the ENEOS Otago International Classic Rally, sealing his third Classic win in a Toyota Celica Group B replica.
There was a late scare however when a fuel pump broke but Buist clung on to defeat John Silcock’s Mazda RX-7 by over a minute with Shane Murland finishing up third in a Ford Escort Mk2.
Jeff Judd had been in the battle for victory due to Buist’s fuel pump issue but the pressure was eased on the winner when Judd was forced to stop his Escort three stages from home with engine problems.
Drifting legend ‘Fanga’ Dan Woolhouse finished eighth in the famous Team Rossendale Escort Mk2, capping off his first ever rally start without significant drama.
Steve Cox claimed a crushing victory in the Classic 4WD class, beating fellow Subaru driver Amy Keighley by close to nine minutes.
Olympic gold medalist Hamish Bond restarted the rally after retiring with gearbox failure halfway through Saturday but was unfortunately forced to park his Jeff Jud Subaru Impreza up again on Sunday’s second test.