World Rally Championship event winner Hayden Paddon has cruised to a convincing win in the City of Auckland Rally on Saturday.
The Hyundai driver claimed the victory by two minutes and 40 seconds and dominated the day that took place on roads set aside to be used in the COVID-ruined WRC Rally New Zealand.
The day featured a pass through the Kaipara Hills, Puhoi and Riverhead Forest stages before a service in Kumeu and a second loop of the same stages.
Competitors then headed south to the incredible Jacks Ridge stage set across 6km of former national champion Andrew Hawkeswood’s Whitford property. The purpose-built stage, featuring cambered gravel roads and spectacular jumps was given the thumbs-up by drivers.
Raana Horan finished second in his Skoda Fabia R5 after a sound drive while Dylan Turner (Audi) edged Emma Gilmour (Suzuki) by 0.3 second on the second pass through Jacks Ridge.
“What an amazing day,” Paddon said at the prizegiving at Jacks Ridge. “The Auckland weather turned it on, the roads were amazing, and we had a great day.
“I can’t wait to come back to Jacks Ridge tomorrow for the Repco Battle of Jacks Ridge.”
Graham Featherstone was fifth in his Mitsubishi while Hadyn McKenzie impressed for sixth in another Mitsubishi in one of his first major gravel events.
Arguably the star of the show was Supercars driver and 2020 Bathurst champion Shane van Gisbergen, who was easily the first of the 2WD cars in his father Robert’s Ford Escort.
Van Gisbergen produced a stunning drive to beat far more season gravel campaigners and even edged a number of top 4WD competitors.
He will hand the Escort back to Robert for tomorrow’s Repco Battle of Jacks Ridge and will jump into a new generation Mitsubishi Mirage AP4. His performance in a modern state-of-the-art rally car will be closely monitored by rivals as well as the sell-out crowd.