Rally de Portugal
Portuguese PWRC triumph for Paddon
Kiwi pairing Hayden Paddon and his co-driver John Kennard claimed a confident win in their new Subaru Impreza on the second round of the 2011 FIA Production car World Rally Championship this weekend at Vodafone Rally de Portugal.
After a fifth place on the opening Super Special Stage in Lisbon, 2010 Pirelli Star Driver Paddon led the PWRC from SS2, the first stage of Day One proper, and didn’t look back. Confident in his 2010 pace notes, Paddon spent Day One getting used to driving the rough Portuguese stages in a Subaru not his usual Mitsubishi. He handled the switch with ease and pushed to increase his lead until midday service on Day Two when with 13.9 seconds in hand, he eased off and focused on getting to the finish unperturbed. This strategy proved to be a good one. On Day Three, he broke his suspension arm on SS15 and had to crawl about 10km to the end of the stage, which cost him nearly two minutes, but barely chipped away at his impressive lead. Fortunately, he was able to replace it with a spare on the road section back to midday service and remained over eight minutes ahead of the pack.
While Paddon’s skill is unquestionable, the size of his victory was in part due to the problems of Championship rivals Michal Kościuszko (POL), Patrik Flodin (SWE) and Anders Grøndal (NOR). After a strong fourth on SS2, the gearbox on the 2010 SWRC driver’s Mitsubishi broke on SS3 forcing him to retire prematurely from Day One. He superallied on Day Two and put in consistently quick times throughout the rest of the event, even picking up his first two PWRC stage wins on SS12 and SS13. However, despite mastering the Portuguese stages, the 2009 JWRC Runner-up couldn’t make up the time he’d lost due to Day One’s misfortune. Flodin too fell victim to the treacherous SS3 when he went off and rolled his Subaru four times. He was able to get going again, but was over eight minutes off the pace. Following this, his Subaru was a little worse for wear throughout the event and the Swede, known for his phenomenal pace, was unable to rival Paddon’s times.
Grøndal proved his talent on Day One in Portugal. His first time on the rough gravel stages, he came home a well deserved second to the more experienced Paddon. The 2010 Norwegian Champion spent Day One looking for the right set-up for the Portuguese stages, but was otherwise untroubled until Day Two. On SS11 he broke a differential and then things tumbled from bad to worse when he went off the road on SS12 and rolled his Impreza. Unlike Kościuszko and Flodin, he was unable to continue with the rally and despite proving his pace time and again, retired without points for the second PWRC round in-a-row this season.
This series of surprises all made room for Jukka Ketomäki (FIN) who drove a steady but strong event throughout and Martin Semerád (CZE) who had fallen behind due to tyre problems on Day One to finish second and third. This marked Semerád’s second podium of the season, after he became the youngest ever driver to win a PWRC round in Sweden earlier this year.
Benito Guerra (MEX) had mixed feelings about his impressive fourth place after undertaking the event with a new team, co-driver and Mitsubishi. His delight at picking up 12 PWRC points was tempered by his last minute loss of a place on the podium. After finishing Day Two in a strong third place and almost three minutes ahead of nearest rival Jukka Ketomäki, he lost his turbo on the long SS15 and with it seven minutes. Even so, he successfully completed the morning loop, but suffered a further time penalty, because a turbo change made him late out of service. Never to be defeated, he powered through the second loop of Day Three, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to catch Semerád.
1st – HAYDEN PADDON (NZL): “I'm really happy. It's a really good start and better that we expected considering that it is our first time in the Subaru. We know that the season just started and there's a lot more to come but we'll keep working hard and do always our best.”
2nd – JUKKA KETOMÄKI (FIN): “It’s a surprise, but I drove very seriously. I found the hard rain very difficult, it was tough, but I’m happy.”
3rd – MARTIN SEMERÁD (CZE): “It’s two really good results now this season, but I’m not satisfied with this event. I hope the next one will be better. We weren’t in a position to fight this time and I would like to be able to drive faster next time.”