Paddon wins challenging First Citizens King of the Hill

courtesy Batbados Rally Club/Gerrard Wilson, Hayden Paddon and John Kennard won First Citizens King of the Hill in this Hyundai i20 R5

Globe-trotting Kiwis Hayden Paddon and John Kennard added victory in a third continent to their impressive 2023 record at Sunday’s (June 4) First Citizens King of the Hill (KotH). Already leading the European Rally Championship and their domestic series in New Zealand, they won the final shakedown before Sol Rally Barbados (June 9-11) on a day that challenged the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) as much as the competitors.
  There were huge crowds as KotH returned to the south-east corner of the island, on a 4.2-kilometre course from Palmers in St Philip to Colleton in St John, many fans settling in the night before to bag the best vantage points, with the area near Lodge School and Society Plantation very popular. Former 2wd winner Rhett Watson warmed the crowd up as Zero Car ahead of the 80-car field, which ran in reverse order of performance.
  Sol RB23 Rally Director Neil Barnard said: “It was a challenging but ultimately successful event. We experienced some delays on the first run due to a number of competitors breaking down on the course, but we managed to keep things moving. As anticipated the spectator turnout was huge but our team generally coped well. We want to thank all our marshals and officials but in particular the Roving Response Team and our medical personnel who dealt with Jermin Pope's accident with such professionalism and efficiency. I am pleased to report that, in his co-driver Aaron Kirton's words, ‘Pope and myself are OK, nothing broken, just bruised up’".
  Driving a Hyundai i20 R5 run by Andy Scott’s Albatec Racing team, Paddon set the pace on the first run, 2.3secs ahead of Dane Skeete, who won KotH in 2020 in his Subaru Impreza WRC S12. Four-time KotH winner Jamaica’s Jeff Panton (Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo) was just two-hundredths adrift, with the UK’s Rob Swann (Fabia R5) fourth, ahead of the Ford Fiesta S2000s of fellow-Brits Scott and Kevin Procter.
  Skeete turned the tables on the second run, more than 5secs quicker than the first and now six-tenths ahead of Paddon, with Panton still third and fellow Jamaican Kyle Gregg (Fiesta Rally2) up to fourth from 11th. After a lengthy wait at the stage start while the incident involving Pope was dealt with, the front-runners gave it their all on what had become the day’s final run, as there would be no time for the fourth. While Skeete found another six-tenths, Paddon improved by just over 2secs to win the day by 1.85s, with the consistent Panton third, Gregg fourth and a very determined Procter fifth.
  Perhaps the most relieved man of the day was sixth-placed Stuart Maloney (Fabia Rally2 evo): “I clipped the kerb by Lodge School and bent the arm in run one; that was fixed but in run two over the crest after the start the wheel was bent 90 degrees in the wrong way and I didn't complete that run. I only ended with one clean run, but it was a positive result still being within a second of the other R5s.” Roger and Barry Mayers, the leading 2wd runners were seventh and ninth, with Roger Hill (Fabia R5) eighth and Paul Horton (Citroen C3 Rally2) finishing in the KotH Top 10 for the first time.
  Paddon said: “The atmosphere of the rally is very energetic and we're enjoying it, but we've had to really adjust to the heat with it being very warm. We've only seen the one stage so far and we see that the grip is always changing with the road surfaces. We're looking forward to seeing the other stages and we understand there are some tricky places and we need to watch out for these. The locals clearly are going to be very fast next weekend as they certainly know the roads well. We're here to enjoy ourselves but once the helmet goes on, we try to do the best job we can and we'd like to win but we know it will not be simple.”
  Despite the defeat, Skeete was happy: “I felt good about my pace. Half of the stage I was not familiar with and I didn’t want to take any risks ahead of Rally Barbados. Considering that, I think we did well. As far as road position goes, I always prefer not to be first on the road, so I’m happy to be starting second.”
  Panton, who has benefitted from some driver coaching from Britain’s Chris Ingram, the 2019 European Rally Champion, who has a lot of experience in Fabias, said: “Today's result feels good. The week spent working with Chris has helped in building confidence and correcting mistakes. So we have to concentrate on improving all of this next weekend, driving our own rally and being as clean and as quick as possible.”
  Fellow-Jamaican Gregg said: “I'm beyond satisfied with the result on our first dry tarmac event. The guys beat me up on the first run and I had to regain composure but P4 overall is good. The pace is hot and Paddon is on a different level, which he should be; Jeffrey and I were talking about where the three seconds difference is, because we know we are on the limit.”
  Roger Mayers (Toyota WR Starlet) featured in the overall top 10 all day, as high as fifth after the second run. He won SuperModified 2 and was top 2wd, but by only 0.27s from his brother Barry (Ford Fiesta). Logan Watson (BMW M3) finished third in 2wd and, while he was not as close to the Mayers brothers as he would have liked, he was ahead of Andrew Jones (SM2 Ford Escort MkII) throughout. He was never headed in Modified 3, leading Sol Esuf and Justin Campbell home, both in M3s.
  Of his fifth 2wd victory, Mayers said: “It was not drama free as we bent something in the steering over the crest just after the start. I had to live with it, so there was some time left on the stage. Looking to Sol Rally Barbados, I don't think I will try to start at 100 per cent; instead, I'll get a feel for it, build a rhythm and try to get to the end.”
  Often closely matched, Neil and Edward Corbin won M2 and M1 respectively, finishing 23rd and 25th overall. It was a second M2 KotH win for the former’s Toyota GT86 CS-R3, with Chris Ullyett (Escort RS2000) again closest and Michael Worme (BMW 318ti) third. Edward (Daihatsu Charmant) won M1 from Jamaica’s Horatio Brown (Citroen C2R2); last year’s winner Pope’s second-run time was good enough for third.
  While the margin of victory in SM2 was narrow, other classes were hard-fought, too. In Clubman 2, the best-subscribed class with 13 BimmaCup starters, just seven-tenths covered the top three. Derek Edwards set the pace on the first run, chased by Chris Hoad and Ian Warren, and again on the second, but Warren pulled out all the stops on run three to beat Hoad by 0.11s, with Edwards third, another six-tenths adrift.
  It was easier for Greg Cozier (BimmaCup Too) in C3, faster all day than Kevin Armstrong (BMW 325i), winning by 1.2secs after Karl Bovell (BMW 325) retired before setting a time. In C1, the early leader was Kyle Gill (Mitsubishi Mirage RS Clone), but Jason Tull (Peugeot 106 Rallye S2) beat Gill by just under 1sec on his final run, with Wayne Tasker (Opel Corsa B) third.
  The largest winning margins came in M4 and SM1, where Mark Thompson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) and Tremaine Forde-Catwell (Charmant) were dominant. An impressive seventh overall after the first run, Thompson slipped out of the top 10, but still won the class by 18.51s from the similar car of George Sherman, while siblings Kyle and Kayleigh Catwell were less than 1sec behind the American in their new Audi TT-R. While last year’s winner Forde-Catwell was 13.49s clear of Kevin Wiggins (Toyota Starlet) in SM1 – and finished in the overall top 20 - a close fight raged behind. Darren Lashley (Starlet) finished third, ahead of the Starlets of Roger Jordan and Ross Callender, split by Jason Cozier’s Escort MkI, the quartet covered by just 1.4secs.
  Three classes were won by British visitors. Now running in Group B in his familiar BMW 1M Coupe, Martin Stockdale added another trophy to the many collected on his previous 20 visits. After the first run, fellow-countryman Andrew Costin-Hurley (Ford Cosworth Puma) had been second but a determined and typically flamboyant Calvin Briggs (Ford Sierra) split the two Brits, closing to within 5secs of Stockdale.
  Alone in Historic 1, Mick Smith in his immaculate Sunbeam Imp finished runs two and three to take home the trophy, while Chris Shooter and Bev LeGood claimed their second consecutive H2 win with a comfortable win over John Corbin (Toyota Corolla) after Harold Morley (Porsche 911RS) retired on the first run with a blown engine.

Sol Rally Barbados (June 9-11) is a tarmac rally, with 20 special stages run on the island’s intricate network of public roads, under road closure orders granted by the Ministry of Transport, Works & Water Resources; First Citizens King of the Hill (June 4) runs under a similar arrangement and features four timed runs on a four-kilometre stage, the results of which are used to seed the running order for Sol RB23.

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