Kiwi rally driver Hayden Paddon, with co-driver Seb Marshall, has been on the pace during the first day of Rally Australia, finishing Friday’s 101.68 kilometres of competition in a close fourth place. Paddon is just 12.5 seconds behind rally leader Mads Ostberg and 3.8 second behind third-placed Jari-Matti Latvala.
This weekend’s running of Rally Australia is the final round of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship and see the three WRC titles – drivers’, co-drivers’ and manufacturers’ – all waiting on this event’s final placings.
The best placed Hyundai Motorsport driver after the first day of competition, Paddon was able to make the most of his starting order – ninth on the road of the 12 WRC cars – to keep pushing throughout the day’s eight stages, despite an issue partway through the afternoon loop with a tyre coming off the rim. The pair were consistently in the top five, or better, for much of the day.
Paddon said: “We have had a nice clean day and find ourselves involved in a close fight at the front. The feeling inside the car has been pretty good on all stages. I have spent Friday just trying to get the natural rhythm back, learning to push in the car and gaining confidence. Our approach was right. We had an issue midway through the afternoon when a tyre came off the rim; we were forced to use a worn soft tyre for the second run through Sherwood. I was surprised not to lose more time than we did. We can definitely go faster, and we have to keep pushing for the team. There’s no other option.”
Crews face their longest day of the event tomorrow (Saturday) with 133km of gravel racing over 10 stages. Paddon will be wanting to do his best to help Hyundai Motorsport in their close fight for the manufacturers’ championship where Hyundai has 319 points versus Toyota’s 331 points – with a potential 25 points up for grabs.