Hayden Paddon and John Kennard hold a handy fifth place overall and are the leading Hyundai crew as the second day of Rally Australia concludes on Saturday evening (Australian time). The Kiwis made a valiant bid to move up the leader-board during the morning, securing two stage wins in succession – and bringing their WRC stage win total to seven. Having started Saturday in sixth place, 25.5 sec away from then rally leader Jari-Matti Latvala, Paddon and Kennard blitzed the field in the monster 50.8 km Nambucca stage. The pair opted for the right tyres – hard – winning the stage by a 4.6 sec margin to Andreas Mikkelson, slashing their margin to the new rally leader, Kris Meeke, to 11.3 sec and moving into fifth overall. Paddon again went fastest in the following 7.94 km stage, but such was the pace of the leading WRC competitors, Paddon stayed in fifth overall, but reduced his margin to 9.3 sec behind leader Meeke.
Feeling more confident following the morning’s two stage wins, Paddon said: “A really good first loop this morning. We were able to fix the differential problem from last night, and make a few setup changes. Today the car is feeling much more like normal, so I’m able to drive with confidence and how I would normally be driving. We’ve been able to make the most of the road position and push where we can to make up some time, to get back in the fight up the front. Obviously a long way to go. The repeat stages the guys up the front will be going much quicker, so we’ll just have to try and minimise the time lose today, try and stay in touch.”
The afternoon’s repeated runs of the two stages saw Paddon content with a gear selector issue and, through the last part of the Nambucca stage, worn tyres. Despite his margin to leader Meeke easing out to 19.0 seconds, Paddon continued to hold fifth. And with a fifth quickest time in the night-time running of the final 7.94 km stage, the Kiwi remains handily-placed in fifth overall. Results just from leg two (Saturday) show Paddon’s stage times were the quickest overall for this leg; his combined times for the four stages totalling 1 hr, 5 min, 16.6 sec, just two sec ahead of double world champion Sebastien Ogier (see attached).
At the day’s end, Paddon commented: “I’m pretty happy with how today has gone. I felt much more comfortable and confident in the car this morning and we resolved the issues we had yesterday afternoon. We made some set-up changes and I have been able to drive the car in the way I like. The second loop wasn’t ideal because we wore down the tyres too much in the long Nambucca stage and we lost around 10 seconds in the last 20km. Still, it’s been a good day. We’re fifth overall and, although it will be hard to catch the leaders on outright pace, we’ll try to keep the pressure on.”