The New Zealand driver Hayden Paddon has won the opening round of the 2011 New Zealand Rally Championship securing a comprehensive win at the Rally of Otago.
Coming out 1 minute 36.9 seconds ahead after 15 special stages, Paddon took an early lead in the dark of Friday evening to eventually cross the finish ramp first at Dunedin's railway station on the Sunday afternoon.
Rotorua's defending champion Dean Sumner put in a strong performance on the final 47 kilometre special stage to slightly narrow Paddon's advantage.
Sumner, in a Mitsubishi, was in an earlier battle for position with Dunedin local and Subaru driver Emma Gilmour, before an off-road excursion dropped her down the order mid-morning.
Former champion Chris West from Timaru finished third, edging out another former champion, Richard Mason for a place on the podium.
The series continues with the second of five rounds being the World Rally Championship's Rally New Zealand event based at Hampton Downs on May the 7th and 8th.
The New Zealand national series then moves to Rally Wairarapa on May the 28th to 29th, the International Rally of Whangarei from July the 15th to 17th and ends with Rally Hawke's Bay from August the 20th to 21st.