Hayden Paddon says it is an 'incredible feeling' to have beaten the 'best driver in the world' Sebastien Ogier in an enthralling last stage showdown to clinch his maiden World Rally Championship win in Argentina.
Having assumed the lead of the treacherous event at the end of the second day when long-time front runner Jari-Matti Latvala crashed out, Paddon faced the fast-closing attentions of championship leader Ogier over the final day, coming into the final stage just 2.6secs ahead.
Culminating in a Power Stage showdown, an 'on the limit' Paddon nevertheless prevailed with a storming run to clinch the win by 14.3secs, in doing so becoming the first New Zealander to win a WRC event and to secure only a second win for Hyundai too.
Indeed, it is the circumstances of the success is what really thrills Paddon having doing so by beating three-time title winning Volkswagen driver Ogier in a straight fight.
“It's an amazing feeling,” he said. “I was on the edge of my seat before the last stage too! To be honest I was not confident with the two seconds before El Condor but I drove the best I could and apart from one mistake, I couldn't do any more. To win a rally like this when you are pushing to the limit against the best driver in the world is an incredible feeling.
“I had no idea! Initially I thought that it was not enough. We got to the end and we saw the time on the screen. But Seb's time was covered and I could not see it, and I looked at the media in front of the car and nobody was giving me any indication, I said “what's going on here?”
Asked whether he felt he had to win at all costs, Paddon pointed out that driving the #20 car – which gets rotated between himself and team-mates Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville – meant he was not required to score big manufacturers' points, taking some pressure off.
“I didn't want to come second but I was in the number 20 car and didn't have to get points for the main team, I wanted to win. I went over the rocks but fortunately the car is strong and we got to the end.”