Paddon makes it two-for-two with victory in PWRC at Rally Argentina
Kiwi pairing Hayden Paddon and John Kennard clinched their second victory in-a-row in their Michelin-shod Subaru Impreza on the third round of the 2011 FIA Production car World Rally Championship at Rally Argentina this weekend. Paddon, who didn’t nominate Rally Sweden as a scoring PWRC round, also now tops the Championship standings, displacing young Czech driver Martin Semerád (Mitsubishi), despite having competed in one less event.
His first outing in Argentina, Paddon decided to practise a strategy of caution on Day One. Despite electrical gremlins which set in from SS4 onwards, strong times kept Paddon on the pace of the frontrunners, but sitting in a contented third, until the final stage of the day when the retirements of then first- and second-placed Patrik Flodin (SWE, Subaru) and Michal Kościuszko (POL, Mitsubishi) promoted the Kiwi into the lead. Paddon’s Subaru continued with low power and slight misfiring throughout Day Two despite changes to his engine management system at midday service. However, the 2010 Pirelli Star Driver once again focused on putting in steady times and getting his Impreza through the stages. Even ‘steady’ times earned the unfailingly quick Paddon, who came to Argentina straight off the back of an almost flawless victory on his first round of the 2011 PWRC in Portugal, another stage win on SS15 and an eight minute lead over then second-placed Flodin by the end of Day Two. Another set of strong times on Day Three, and Paddon cruised home to victory in the PWRC, the first of an all-Subaru top three, and ninth place overall, earning him two WRC points.
It was 2010 PWRC runner-up Flodin who came home a well earned second place in the PWRC and tenth overall to pick up 18 PWRC points and one WRC point. After a difficult start to the season, Flodin reminded everyone of the pace he’s capable of from the outset of Rally Argentina. Second in the PWRC by 0.5 seconds after the Thursday night Super Special, he immediately took the lead on the opening stage of Day One proper. He briefly jockeyed for position with young Polish rival Kościuszko on the morning stages, but reclaimed the lead on SS4 and won four of the first five stages of the day. However, disaster struck for the Swede when he stopped to refuel on the road section after SS6 and electrical troubles meant his Subaru’s engine wouldn’t restart, forcing him to retire from the day.
When Flodin restarted on Day Two, he had only fallen to fourth in the PWRC due to his early pace on Day One. He once again set to the stages at a lick, and two more stage wins and consistently quick times meant that although over eight minutes behind leader Paddon, Flodin had been promoted back into second by the end of Day Two. His electrical woes briefly returned on the road section to the final stage of the day, but Flodin successfully restarted his Subaru and cleared the stage, relieved only to suffer a 40 second road penalty. Another strong set of times on Day Three, including clearing the 48km SS16 nearly a minute faster than his nearest PWRC competitor, and Flodin was relieved to make it home to final service and put himself back in the mix in the Championship standings.
The last time Kościuszko competed in Argentina, he won the third round of the 2009 JWRC. He returned this weekend in a 4WD Mitsubishi with high hopes for his second outing in the 2011 PWRC, but it wasn’t meant to be. After a strong start to Day One, winning SS3 and battling with more experienced PWRC drivers Flodin and Paddon, Kościuszko was lying in a strong second when he went off on SS7, the final stage of the day, and broke his Mitsubishi’s front suspension arm. The 2009 JWRC runner-up restarted on Day Two and showed phenomenal speed on the tricky stages, clocking five PWRC stage wins and returning to evening service in a clear third, only just over 20 seconds behind second-placed Flodin. Kościuszko seemed to have the final place on the PWRC podium sewn up when he hit a stone and broke his front right steering arm on the long SS16, the opening stage of Day Three. He stopped to replace the part, but lost nearly 20 minutes and fell to tenth.
Kościuszko’s misfortune left Dmitry Tagirov (RUS, Subaru) in third, a position he wasn’t going to give up lightly. Determined to make it to the finish unscathed, Tagirov claimed his first PWRC podium and 15 Championship points on his debut in Argentina. Aside from one slow puncture on SS4 and a broken trackrod on SS14 - which he had to stop and change on the road section after the stage, picking up a three minute time penalty – the Russian had an uneventful rally and was delighted to move up to fourth in the PWRC standings.
Four-times Peruvian Champion Nicolás Fuchs (PER, Mitsubishi) came home a strong fourth, followed by Semerád in fifth, while Harry Hunt (GBR) who finished eleventh picked up 25 points in the Production car Cup as the quickest 2WD competitor in the PWRC. With 11 of the 12 PWRC starters making it to the end of the event, it was only guest driver Alejandro Levy (ARG, Mitsubishi) who, after an impressive Day One which he finished lying in second, suffered engine problems on the morning loop of Day Two and retired from the event.
1st – HAYDEN PADDON (NZL):
“Absolutely amazing! I didn’t come here to win and to come away with maximum points is great for the Championship. Performance-wise it hasn’t been completely satisfying, but a great result for the team. There’s still a long way to go and we need to take it one round at a time, but it’s absolutely fantastic.”
2nd – PATRIK FLODIN (SWE):
“It’s our third rally and it’s good to score points. If we look back on Friday, it was a terrible start so we have to be happy to finish second. We have to thank the team. My goal now is to win the rest of the PWRC events this season and then we’ll see what happens with the Championship!”
3rd – DMITRY TAGIROV (RUS):
“Today I really began to understand this rally. I found a good rhythm that let me drive quickly but also safely. Of course I'm happy - this is the first ever podium for me driving at a world level, so I'm not used to feeling this way! Right now I don't even realize what’s happened – it will sink in later, maybe in few days. It was a great event and we are happy to be here at the finish and without superallying on such a demanding route, and with such a great result!”