Hayden Paddon scored his first WRC victory at YPF Rally Argentina on Sunday afternoon after fighting off world champion Sébastien Ogier in a thrilling finale to a scintillating last day duel.
The pair were separated by just 2.6sec ahead of the final legendary El Condor speed test, but Paddon stunned the Frenchman to hurtle down the rock-strewn mountain almost 12sec faster and secure a 14.3sec winning margin in his Hyundai i20.
He became the first New Zealand driver to win a WRC round in the championship’s 43-year history and crushed Volkswagen’s ambitions of securing an unprecedented 13 consecutive victories.
“I can’t believe it, I really didn’t think I stood a chance before the last stage after losing time to Ogier this morning,” said Paddon, who celebrated his 29th birthday the day before the start. “I gave that last stage everything I had. Tight and twisty roads like El Condor aren’t my strength but I drove the stage of my life.”
Paddon started the final leg with a 29.8sec advantage after taking the lead yesterday when Jari-Matti Latvala crashed. Gearchange glitches cost valuable seconds in the opening speed test before Ogier threw caution to the wind in the penultimate stage, eating into Paddon’s lead to set up a dramatic ending.
The championship returns to Europe after consecutive rounds in the Americas when Matosinhos hosts Vodafone Rally de Portugal (19 - 22 May).