After the opening two stages of Rallye Monte-Carlo, New Zealanders Hayden Paddon and John Kennard hold a commendable fifth place on the leader-board, just 3.5 seconds behind their Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Thierry Neuville and just over 30 seconds behind rally leader three-time world champion Sébastien Ogier.
Paddon and Kennard are making their debut at the iconic Monte-Carlo rally this weekend as they commence their 2016 World Rally Championship campaign with Hyundai Motorsport.
The pair was seventh quickest through the 21.25km first stage which climbed to a 1100-metre peak on what were largely dry roads. Driving the 2015-spec Hyundai i20 WRC car, Paddon beat his other Hyundai team-mate Dani Sordo, in the new 2016-spec car, by 4.6 seconds, but says he was taking it very easy as he felt his way into the conditions.
On the second of the night stages which followed the official ceremonial start outside the Monaco Casino, Paddon and Kennard set the fourth quickest time – the fastest Hyundai – on the 20.38 km stage which crossed the 1459 metre Col de Fanget and featured ice on the final four kilometres.
Paddon was the only WRC driver to choose a combination of super-soft asphalt and non-studded winter tyres, the others opting for the super-softs and studded tyres.
Paddon said: “My (no stud) tyre choice helped us in the first part and I knew I would have to take it carefully on the descent. No regrets over my decision.”
He concluded with: “I need to work more on my asphalt (driving) technique tomorrow.”
Rallye Monte-Carlo continues on Friday (European time) with two repeated runs of three stages.