The Kiwi, driving a Symtech Racing Subaru Impreza under the New Zealand World Rally Team banner, began day three with a comfortable lead. Although Jarkko Nikara won a succession of stages on Saturday to close the gap, Paddon and co-driver John Kennard were never really threatened.
“It’s like a dream come true to win here,” said Paddon, who has also won in the PWRC in Portugal and Argentina this season. “I came here wanting to be on the podium so to leave here with maximum points is a great feeling. I’ve not won many stages but I’ve been consistently fast over the whole weekend and certainly there is more pace to come. I’m still learning the car and the new events.”
Asked about Nikara’s threat on day three, Paddon added: “I got a bit nervous this morning when Nikara kept catching me because he was really fast. That meant I had to watch my back. But we didn’t have any problems and the team did a great job.”
Nikara had led on Thursday night but slipped back when he rolled on Friday’s first test. He underlined his potential by going fastest on nine of Saturday’s 11 stages.
After his Impreza was hobbled by a succession of mechanical failures on Friday, Patrik Flodin suffered further troubles on day three. His car’s fourth gear failed on stage 15 before a turbo boost problem dropped him into the clutches of Finnish veteran Jukka Ketomaki nearing the finish. However, the Swede was able to rectify the fault prior to the Power Stage, which allowed him to secure third position.
“We drove absolutely over the limit on that final stage,” said Flodin. “This was definitely the worse Rally Finland for me. I had so much trouble and couldn’t really enjoy it. At least taking a podium made me a little bit happy.”
Michal Kosciuszko took fifth behind Ketomaki with Finnish wildcard entrant Mikko Pajunen a sensational sixth overall in his two-wheel drive Renault Clio R3. The youngster’s standout performance earned him the prestigious Abu Dhabi Spirit of the Rally Award after he completed day two in second place in the PWRC.
“It has been brilliant,” he said. “I’ve done even a bit better than anybody expected. The difference today is that there are more junctions and I can’t really compete against the guys with four-wheel drive cars. We dropped a few positions but I’m still really happy.”
Valeriy Gorban finished seventh with Mentos Ascania Racing team-mate Aleksey Kikireshko eighth. Dmitry Tagirov was the final finisher in ninth after he battled back from a broken wheel on Saturday morning.
PWRC information bulletins from Neste Oil Rally Finland:
Follow this link for event statistics.
Follow this link for a news round-up.
Follow this link for a driver-by-driver summary.