Paddon and Breen back in the WRC spotlight in Finland

New Zealander Hayden Paddon returns to the World Rally Championship at next month’s Neste Rally Finland in an EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC.

Paddon and Breen back in the WRC spotlight in Finland

New Zealander Hayden Paddon returns to the World Rally Championship at next month’s Neste Rally Finland in an EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC.

Along with co-driver John Kennard, they will join Welsh ace Elfyn Evans and Finland’s Teemu Suninen in a third M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Fiesta and will be eligible to score manufacturer points for the Cumbrian squad.

The Kiwi made his first appearance in a WR car on the RallyRACC Catalunya in 2013 in a Ford Fiesta WRC. The Finland rally will mark his 80th appearance in the WRC and his 10th on this specialised event.

Paddon drove for Hyundai for five seasons, but the team’s decision to sign Sebastien Loeb (for selected rounds this year) meant an extremely limited programme for the Kiwi so he took a year out.

With much of the 2020 WRC drive line-up still to be announced, Paddon and Ireland’s Craig Breen will use Rally Finland to showcase their talents and will need little motivation to put themselves back in the limelight.

Sunday’s latest round of the 5-Star Catering National Autocross Championship at Derryleigh near Leap in Cork sees Mountmellick’s Anthony Culleton renew rivalry with New Ross driver Paul Furlong.

Both campaign the Semog Buggy and between them have dominated the series with Culleton the victor in events hosted by the Limerick and Midland clubs while Furlong won the Clare club’s event. Heading to West Cork, Culleton, runner-up in last year’s series, holds an 8.5-point advantage. The series is based on the best seven scores from eight rounds. The event is also a counting round of the Barrett Transport/Daly Motor Services Munster Autocross Championship, with Furlong just two points ahead of Clare’s Brian Hassett.

A strong Cork contingent includes Paul O’Driscoll, Brian O’Mahony, Stevey Lane, Dermot O’Riordan, Fachtna McCarthy, who are all in Semogs along with Nicky Hegarty and Diarmuid French (Specials).

The track has undergone substantial improvements and its fast flowing nature should provide good competition. The practice run starts at 10.15am with the green light for the first of three timed runs at 10.45am.

Meanwhile, in the saloon category of the national series, Limerick’s Matt Shinnors has a 1.5-point lead over fellow county man Mike O’Connor.

West Cork driver Gary Lordan leads the category in the Munster series.

Unbeaten in the Rainbow Communications Loughgall Country Park Rally since 2015, Armagh’s Damian Toner (Ford Escort) headlines the popular event tomorrow. Run over six tarmac stages in the confines of the park, Toner faces a fleet of similar Escorts trying to break his winning sequence, including Lisburn’s Wesley Patterson, Draperstown’s John Bradley, Tyrone’s Adrian Hetherington, and Antrim’s James Kennedy.

The first stage is at 9.30am. The penultimate round of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, the Today’s Ulster Rally (August 17/18), will be based in Newry. Entries for the event that also count as a round of the British Rally Championship opened this week.

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