Paddon, who started the event in the knowledge that 25 points would put the title beyond the reach of his rivals, adopted a cautious approach on the final morning to clinch the crown in his Subaru Impreza.
Martin Semerad, who didn’t nominate the Southern Hemisphere event as one of his scoring rounds, can still draw level with Paddon by winning the final two events of the season. However, the Czech would still lose the title on count-back.
“We tried to push on the first stage today but I guess I was a little bit too attentive,” said Paddon. “I didn’t want to throw it away so we drove it steadily without taking too many risks and got to the end. The goal was to secure the title and finish in the top six. We’ve done both and I’m so happy but I really can’t believe it - it’s incredible.”
Paddon was using his family-owned, right-hand drive Impreza rather than the left-hand drive Symtech Racing machine he has used so far this season. This was due to logistical reasons. “It was run by our old team who do a good job, it was no problem.”
Michal Kosciuszko said the gearbox problems that had proved a distraction earlier in the event had been solved for the final day, which he completed in second position. “The stages were trickier today than yesterday, more soft and technical,” said the Polish driver. “We focused on making no mistakes and brining home 18 points.”
Oleksandr Saliuk secured a season-best third in his Mitsubishi Lancer, the perfect response to the high-speed crash he suffered on the previous round in Finland. “We drove the stages very consciously but we felt very comfortable,” said the Ukraine driver. “We had a spin this morning and lost 20 seconds.”
Mexican Benito Guerra took fourth with Ukrainian Valeriy Gorban fifth and Italian veteran Gianluca Linari sixth.
Australian Brendan Reeves restarted under SupeRally rules following his retirement on day two with a fuel pump failure. He took seventh alongside his co-driving sister Rhianon Smyth. “I was really hoping to get on the podium but this is rallying and these things happen,” said the Victoria driver.
Nathan Quinn, who hails from Coffs Coast, made the most of his local knowledge to go fastest on three stages today in his Mitsubishi, despite being hit by a brake problem during the morning.
Harry Hunt, the lone two-wheel drive competitor competing in the class, bagged his first PWRC points despite a troubled final morning in his Citroen DS3 R3, which included his car’s turbo pipe becoming detached and a puncture.
Bader Al Jabri took 10th for Team Abu Dhabi, one place ahead of team-mate Majed Al Shamsi. Both drivers needed SupeRally to finish following earlier delays.
Finn Jukka Ketomaki retired his Hayden Paddon-owned Mitsubishi Lancer with a broken axle following his restart under SupeRally rules this morning.
There was no restart on Sunday for Australian wildcard entrant Leigh Gotch after he crashed into a tree on day two.
PWRC information bulletins from Rally Australia:
Follow this link for event statistics.
Follow this link for a news round-up.
Follow this link for driver quotes.
Follow this link for a Q&A with new champion Hayden Paddon.