So, Shane van Gisbergen then.
It really was one of those. Tuning in to an Auckland evening on a European Sunday morning, the expectation had been of another Hayden Paddon rout. There’s no doubting van Gisbergen’s talent, but this was a 1.5-mile gravel stage at Jacks Ridge. Not Bathurst. And his Mitsubishi was an AP4 car. Not a Triple Eight-run Holden Commodore in Australian Supercars.
Paddon rolled his Hyundai i20 AP4++ earlier in the day and was a spectator when it came to watching the Aucklander turn his track prowess into a gravel masterclass.
“The event didn’t turn out as planned, with our off-road excursion,” said Paddon. “But it’s been an enjoyable, awesome day and congratulations to Shane.”
For his part van Gisbergen admitted he’d learned a lot.
“The last few days have been really cool,” he said. “I had a great time and learned a whole lot about rallying.”
Paddon couldn’t be too down about his weekend. The day before he’d thrashed everybody to take a 2m40s win on the City of Auckland Rally – an event which marked John Kennard’s return to the co-driver’s seat aboard the i20 AP4+.
And, earlier on Sunday morning, Paddon had the chance to demonstrate his Hyundai Kona EV for the first time in public.
“That was actually pretty humbling,” said Paddon. “It’s been a massive month for the whole team at Paddon Rallysport and to have the Hyundai Kona EV out was amazing. There’s a lot of work in front of us, but we’ve taken that first step.
“And it was great to be out in [City of Auckland Rally] stages north of Auckland which haven’t been used in decades yesterday. John did an amazing job on the notes and the team did a fantastic job with the car, which was faultless all day.”
Both events ran without any incident. The Battle of Jacks Ridge – which would be included as a superspecial on the country’s World Rally Championship qualifier – in Auckland’s suburbs was a 5,000-strong sell-out.
For the full story of van Gisbergen’s surprise rally win, keep an eye on DirtFish next week for an exclusive interview with the Antipodean racing star