Hyundai pilot Hayden Paddon secured his first World Rally Championship victory on a dramatic Rally Argentina, after Jari-Matti Latvala crashed out of a secure lead.

Latvala assumed the lead with a blistering run through SS4, making the most of his advantageous position in the running order. Fresh from his win last time out in Mexico, Latvala was hopeful of getting his championship challenge back on track after an early run of non-scores and securing a record-breaking run of 13 WRC wins for Volkswagen.

But the Finn’s run came to an end on SS14 when broken suspension pitched the Polo R WRC into a roll. Watch it in the video above.

He told WRC.com: “I’m really disappointed but I don’t know what else I could have done. I had a good lead, it had been a controlled drive and I was in control on the stage. If I have to avoid every stone then we can go home – there is no point to come to the rally.

“You can’t avoid every rock if you try to win,” Latvala added. “And this wasn’t a loose rock, it was part of the road. I can’t understand how [the suspension] breaks. But that’s how it is – very unlucky.”

Latvala’s demise left Paddon in the lead by a healthy 30-second margin. The Kiwi had been trading stage times with erstwhile championship leader Sebastien Ogier, but made hay while the VW man was slowed by running first on the road to pull out a gap.

Roles were reversed on the final day, though, as a better road position and gearbox issues for Paddon allowed Ogier to close to within a few seconds going into the final stage. But Paddon threw caution to the wind and scorched through the test nearly 12 seconds faster than Ogier.

Paddon’s maiden win is also the first by a New Zealand driver in the WRC’s 43-year history and Hyundai’s second in the series. He said afterwards: “I can’t believe it! I really didn’t think we were going to be able to hang on. It all came down to the Power Stage and we pushed really hard. It was particularly special to pull out that performance on El Condor.

“We drove the wheels off the car,” he added. “It’s a lot to take in at the moment. It’s a fantastic result for me, John and the whole team. A huge amount of work has gone into the New Generation i20 WRC. I knew from the first test we could win with it, I just didn’t quite expect it to be so soon.”

Ogier praised Paddon’s performance, saying: “Hayden and I had exactly the same conditions out on the route – he went absolutely all-out on the Power Stage and was simply better. Respect for that performance.”

VW junior driver Andreas Mikkelsen kept his nose clean to climb onto the bottom step of the podium, while Hyundai team leader Dani Sordo was fourth. M-Sport Ford driver Mads Ostberg was a distant fifth and Thierry Neuville took sixth in the remaining i20.

Local driver Marcos Ligato led the privateer entries in seventh, while M-Sport’s Eric Camilli took the best finish of his debut WRC campaign with eighth. Fan favourite Henning Solberg was ninth, while Nicolas Fuchs closed out the top ten, leading the WRC2 runners.

Ogier maintains his hold on the championship lead, with 39 points in hand over Paddon in second.

The WRC returns to Europe for the next round, Rally Portugal, starting on 19 May.

Rally Argentina top ten finishers after 18 stages

  1. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard — Hyundai Motorsport N/Hyundai i20 WRC — 3:40:52.9
  2. Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia — Volkswagen Motorsport/VW Polo R WRC — +14.3
  3. Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger — Volkswagen Motorsport II/VW Polo R WRC — +1:05.2
  4. Dani Sordo/Marc Marti — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — +1:17.1
  5. Mads Ostberg/Ole Floene — M-Sport WRT/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +4:56.7
  6. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — +9:29.5
  7. Marcos Ligato/Ruben Garcia — Privateer/Citroen DS3 WRC — +9:39.2
  8. Eric Camilli/Benjamin Veillas — M-Sport WRT/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +10:16.0
  9. Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor — Privateer/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +10:48.5
  10. Nicolas Fuchs/Fernando Mussano — Privateer/Skoda Fabia R5 — +24:42.8

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By Only Motors