The Subaru-driving Kiwi ended the Faro-based event 11th overall and almost eight minutes ahead of his nearest rival Jukka Ketomaki.
After two days of trouble-free rallying, Paddon suffered a bent steering arm on the second stage this morning. But such was his gap he could afford to back right off, drop almost four minutes and still arrive at the finish with a massive margin over his nearest rival.
“We took it easy,” said Paddon, who was co-driven by countryman John Kennard. “We kind of knew that was a weak point on the car and when it happened, I backed off, got to the end of the stage and fixed it. It was no problem - we’re carrying loads of spares in the car today, just to be safe.”
And safe he was as he cruised through the repeated afternoon stages to post his first win on his debut in a Subaru.
“The car’s been fantastic,” he said. “It’s much better than the Mitsubishi in the tight and twisty stuff, it just picks up and goes out of the corners. Okay, we miss a little bit at the top end of the engine, but the handling makes up for that. It’s been a great rally!”
Second place went to Ketomaki’s Mitsubishi after the similar machine of Mexican driver Benito Guerra suffered turbo failure and slipped to fourth on today’s final four stages. Ketomaki admitted he was “sleeping” through the day’s opener, but after that he was happy to take a conservative approach on his way to his best PWRC result.
Martin Semerad’s astonishing climb back up the leaderboard continued on the final day as he placed his Mitsubishi third. The Czech driver was hugely grateful to all his PWRC rivals for allowing him to switch to DMACK’s medium compound tyre after shredding the hard rubber on the opening day. Rally Sweden winner Semerad’s second PWRC podium in as many rallies keeps him at the top of the drivers’ table.
Ukrainian Veleriy Gorban finished fifth in his Mentos Ascania Racing Lancer, one place ahead of team-mate and countryman Oleksandr Saliuk.
Michal Kosciuszko’s recovery from his retirement on day one netted seventh overall on his first start in the production series. Team Abu Dhabi drivers Majed Al Shamsi and Bader Al Jabri took eighth and ninth places respectively with Partik Flodin landing the final point following a torrid rally, which included a huge roll on day one.
Briton Harry Hunt won the Production Car Cup section in his Citroen DS3 R3, despite stopping on day two with clutch failure.
PWRC: Vodafone Rally de Portugal information bulletins:
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Follow this link for a driver-by-driver summary.