Paddon wins APRC qualifier in New Zealand
Hayden Paddon has taken every stage win on his way to a commanding victory at the Winmax Brakes Otago Rally, the third round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship qualifier, the Pacific Rally Cup, at Dunedin.
Driving their Hyundai New Zealand i20 N Rally2 for the first time in 2023, nobody was able to get close to the former WRC event winner, as he extended his overnight lead on each stage to conclude the rally with a winning margin of over four minutes.
The Pacific Rally Cup saw 20 international drivers from Australia, Japan, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and the Phillipines competing for points and glory on the scenic and challenging roads of Otago.
In the day’s stages south of Dunedin, he and co-driver John Kennard were again untouchable, continuing to show why he is New Zealand’s greatest rally driver. Behind him was the Holden Barina AP4 of Ari Pettigrew, who was the ‘best of the rest’ for most of the weekend. He took second place by over 30 seconds from multiple NZRC champion Ben Hunt. Hunt’s day two goal was to catch Pettigrew after a few driving mistakes on Day 1 but Pettigrew showed class beyond his years to hold off the fast charging Skoda driver. Raana Horan finished fourth in his Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo, a further minute back from the final podium place, while fifth place went to Emma Gilmour in the debut run for her Citroen C3 R5. Gilmour’s fifth place finish backs up the same placing in her home rally last season, and continues on a strong start to her 2023 motorsport season.
VM Sports Foundation led by Vamcy Merla was instrumental in fielding 15 entries out of the total 18, in the Indian Asia Cup round organised by MMSC and made it a very successful APRC round in the Calendar. It has halted the run of low number of single-digit entries in APRC. Then VM Sports Foundation went on to extend its support at other international qualifying rallies of APRC segment by not only shouldering the total cash prize, also entires of few at Otago Rally in Dunedin, New Zealand but he also sponsored the beautiful Trophies.
The rally did not have the presence of Indian Arjuna Awardee Gaurav Gill, the three-time Asia Pacific Rally Champion, who won the second round at the South India Rally in Chennai but the stage is set for a grand finale in Indonesia among all the winners of Asia Cup and Pacific Cup. The Indian presence was also felt remotely with a generous backing by Vamcy Merla, a passionate rally enthusiast and motorsports promoter from India, who supported the organisers with Prize Money and Trophies for the winners of FIA APRC Pacific Cup.
Vicky Chandhok, Working Group President of the FIA APRC, thanked Vamcy Merla for his involvement and support. “We are grateful to Vamcy Merla for his generosity and passion for rallying. We look forward to seeing him at the final round in Indonesia later this year,” he said.
”It was a good win and I really want to thank the promoter Vamcy Merla for his support to the rally. It is great news that a motorsport enthusiast like him has come on board and will promote other rounds of the APRC as well. I really thank him and wish to meet him in person someday,” Haydon said after the round in a press release.
"I really feel proud to be part of the APRC after the successful Indian round. So we thought of extending some support like entry fees to few and entyrfee part payment to the remaining and the cash prize in the New Zealand round in terms of upcoming rounds we are planning what kind of responsibilities can we further shoulder this season. We are also getting ready to field five Indian drivers at the Indonesian finale in November where Gaurav Gill, the three-time APRC winner is expected to be a strong favourite," Vamcy Merla, VM Sports Foundation.
After another Pacific round in May at Whangarei in New Zealand and two more rounds of Asia Cup in Indonesia and China, the Danau Toba Rally in Indonesia from Nov 24 to 26 will serve as the grand finale where the Asia Pacific Champion will be emerge.