CLICK HERE for Rally Argentina result

Hayden Paddon became the first New Zealander to ever win a round of the WRC today after taking victory on Rally Argentina, despite coming under late pressure from Sebastien Ogier.

Paddon had a 29.8sec lead ahead of the final leg, but with conditions extremely tricky in the first test and with his car stalling a couple of times, he conceded 7.4secs to the Frenchman in El Condor 1. Paddon then saw his lead slashed to just 2.6secs in the penultimate stage, but responded in the Power Stage, El Condor 2, winning the test and eventually finishing 14.3 seconds up on Ogier.

It was Hyundai's first win with the new generation i20 WRC and its second since returning to the sport in 2014.

"I almost can't believe it," Paddon told the official WRC site. "I gave that stage absolutely everything! Huge thanks to everyone - and especially people following at home in New Zealand.

"I've been preparing for this stage for three weeks. In the past the tight and twisty stuff really didn't suit me. I didn't think we had a chance, but today I just drove the wheels off.

"We're going to win a lot more with this car."

Paddon took the lead in the penultimate test on Saturday, when Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala crashed heavily.

Paddon, however, had been in the mix throughout, battling for second with Ogier on Friday, and finishing just 3.5secs back, and only 11.4secs off the lead.

On Saturday, the Kiwi won the opening two stages, to re-take second and to close to within 6.7secs of Latvala.

Paddon then lost ground a bit in SS12 and SS13, but was maintaining the pressure and only 14.5secs adrift when Latvala went off. The pressure was then on him on Sunday, but despite a charge from Ogier, a superb time in the final test netted him the victory.

Meanwhile, having had to run first in the order and sweep the road on Friday and Saturday, Ogier came back on the last day only for a relatively slow time in the Power Stage to cost him. Second place though still sees him further consolidate his lead at the top of the Drivers' Championship, increasing his advantage from 35 points to 39 as he looks for that fourth crown.

"It was very rough, I didn't push to the maximum," Ogier said after El Condor 2. "Whatever the result it's been a great week for us and great to be here."

Behind, Volkswagen Motorsport II pilot Andreas Mikkelsen took third, 50.9 seconds back, after a cautious run in his Polo R WRC.

"I'm happy with third. After Mexico I had to finish here. Now we are back in the points there will be a big push in Portugal," the Norwegian promised.

Dani Sordo was next up for Hyundai, losing a little time on Friday morning when he hit a bank and then also had a sticky throttle.

Mads Ostberg was a distant fifth for M-Sport, surviving a scare on Sunday in El Condor 1 when he went off due to a "little misunderstanding" with the pacenotes.

Hyundai's Thierry Neuville recovered from electrical issues that cost him over 5.5 minutes in SS4 to finish sixth, 9.7 seconds up on local star Marcos Ligato, in a privately entered DS 3 WRC, with M-Sport #2 Eric Camilli eighth and veteran Henning Solberg ninth on his return.

Latvala re-started under Rally 2 on Sunday and looked set for tenth until he had problems in the Power Stage. He eventually limped home in 16th, losing over 25 minutes, but still claiming two Manufacturers' points for VW.

DMACK WRT man Ott Tanak also finished under Rally 2 after an alternator problem put him out on Friday, while running in sixth. Tanak was eventually classified one spot ahead of Latvala in 15th, setting some good times on Saturday and Sunday, including winning SS16 this morning.

In WRC2, Nicolas Fuchs came back to win the principal support category - and finish tenth overall, despite losing 2 minutes in SS4 when his power steering failed.

Hubert Ptaszek was second, with Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari, who led from SS4-SS12, third after rolling in SS13. Elfyn Evans took fourth, sidelined by an electrical problem on Friday and then slowed by punctures on Saturday, while the only other finisher in WRC2 was Augusto Bestard.

The World Rally Championship now heads back to Europe, with Rally de Portugal taking place next month from May 19-22.

 

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