VILLA CARLOS PAZ, Argentina: Hayden Paddon kept world champion Sebastien Ogier at bay to win the Rally of Argentina on Sunday (Monday in Manila) for his first world rally championship success.
The Hyundai driver, tipped as a future world champion, inherited a handsome lead after Jari-Matti Latvala crashed out in his VW Polo on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
And he held his nerve over the three closing stages although he had a scare on the fourth day’s opener when he lost time to Ogier after a gearbox change.
He took fourth in that stage 16 and then third in the next special won by Ogier, also in a VW Polo, who had started the day half a minute behind but was now bang in the hunt only 2.6 seconds shy of the New Zealander.
Cheered on by 65,000 roadside fans the 29-year-old Paddon kept his cool to clock the quickest time in the concluding power stage in El Condor to win his first World Rally Championship rally by 14 seconds, and the first by a New Zealander in WRC’s 43-year history.
On being told he’d won he celebrated by jumping onto the roof of his car and saying: “I don’t believe it, I didn’t think we could do it.”
“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,” added Paddon, who financed his early years in karting with a job in a fish and chip shop, and whatever part-time work he could get.
“It is a good confidence booster for the rest of the season,” he added.
Overall leader Ogier said the New Zealander’s panache had delivered him a deserved win.
“He’s a great rival, we can county on him. I like a good fight,” said Ogier.
“I didn’t take enough risks. Hayden dared to do that so bravo to him,” said the three-time world champion.
“I wasn’t going for victory at any cost and I’m happy with this second place with very precious points for the championship,” Ogier added.
Ogier, who was left looking for his first victory in Argentina, leads the drivers’ standings with 96 points with Paddon moving up to 57 and Norway’s Mads Ostberg with 52.