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Bar lifts with Paddon's WRC victory

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 27/04/2016 Robert Lowe

Hayden Paddon's ground-breaking success in South America has provided a huge lift in confidence, but also increased the challenge in the World Rally Championship.

Paddon's 14.3-second victory in Rally Argentina made him the first New Zealander, and just the second Southern Hemisphere driver, to win a WRC round in the championship's 40-year history.

He did it in impressive fashion, holding off three-time world champion Sebastien Ogier after the Frenchman had closed to within 2.6s before the final power stage.

"It's definitely a big confidence booster," he said of repelling Ogier's attack.

"But at the same time, we have to keep our feet on the ground. We have to do things step by step because we still have a little bit to catch up to Seb in equal conditions throughout a whole rally."

The result lifted the 29-year-old Paddon to second behind Ogier on the points table, but it also means his Hyundai will now be the second car out on the first two days of a WRC rally.

The effect on gravel roads is that he will be doing some of the road sweeping, providing a quicker, cleaner line for those that follow.

"The challenge is a little harder now," he said.

"We are in a similar situation with Seb with a little bit more cleaning, but I see this as opportunity to learn. I'm actually really looking forward to being up near the front."

It was Ogier's continued frustration with the running-order regulations that led to a war of words between him and Paddon after a press conference at the end of the penultimate day in Argentina.

"I obviously respect him as a driver," Paddon said.

"He's still the fastest driver there and he's the one we all have to beat, but I guess the altercation we had gave me that extra fire in the belly to really want to push and try to beat him."

Paddon, who arrived back in Auckland with co-driver John Kennard on Wednesday, said achieving that goal had not yet sunk in.

"Even the last stage, I don't know how we pieced it together like that on that piece of road to hold off Sebastien."

With his victory, Paddon he has ticked a big box for 2016.

"Obviously we wanted to win a rally this year and we weren't really expecting it to come this early in the season," he said.

"We said that once we get back to Europe we want to be regularly fighting for podiums. That remains the same."

The next WRC round is in Portugal in May. Before then, Paddon and Kennard return to domestic competition at this weekend's Rally Whangarei.

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