Hayden Paddon is a champion on both sides of the planet this year after adding a record-breaking seventh New Zealand title to the European Rally Championship he clinched earlier in 2023.
He’s the first driver ever to wear crowns on the top and bottom of the world.
The Hyundai NZ driver’s latest success came on Saturday’s Rally Bay of Plenty – but wasn’t delivered in the usual all-conquering fashion. The 2016 Rally Argentina winner paid tribute to countryman and rival Shane van Gisbergen, who won three stages in an Audi S1 AP4.
“Obviously, it’s awesome to get the job done and win the championship,” said Paddon, who was co-driven by John Kennard as usual.
“We’ve wrapped up a big year here in the Bay of Plenty with this win. Massive credit to the team and the amount of work everyone’s put in this year, and all in all, we’re delighted to top off a pretty successful season.”
Paddon admitted his usual rhythm in the Hyundai i20 AP4 wasn’t quite there through mixed conditions.
“Today didn’t go exactly to plan and, in some ways, it was a pretty tough day for us, we did what we had to do. We got the job done and we enjoyed it.
Talking of Australian Supercars and NASCAR star van Gisbergen’s performance, Paddon said: “We were very close to that 100% stage win record here, so while it’s a shame not to achieve that, it is what it is. Shane did an awesome job and you can’t take that away from him.
“But when things don’t quite feel right in the car, there is no point pushing too hard and taking unnecessary risks when things aren’t gelling. In my old age, I’m getting wiser and learn you’ve got to take the chill pill some days.”