Hayden Paddon and John Kennard got underway at Rally Finland, Kennard’s 50th WRC event as a co-driver, on Thursday evening (European time). The Kiwis were 11th quickest through the 2.27 km Harju super special stage near the centre of the host town of Jyväskylä. Soaked by torrential rain two hours before the start, the stage features a mix of asphalt roads and gravel tracks, and drivers must take care at a fast and tricky downhill descent into tight turns between trees.
Paddon said: “Super specials aren’t really my thing. It was really slippery there so we took no risks. It’s important to have a clean start, so I’m happy to get the super special stage completed. Now looking forward to the stages tomorrow morning.”
Paddon’s Hyundai Motorsport team-mates Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo were eighth and ninth quickest respectively, Neuville only able to start thanks to a huge effort by the team to repair his car after he crashed during Thursday morning’s shakedown runs.
Ahead tomorrow, Paddon is one of 16 WRC competitors to tackle Friday’s stages which comprise almost half the rally’s competitive distance, and all tackled with no opportunity for service from the moment drivers leave Jyväskylä in the morning until they return in the evening. Two identical loops of four gravel stages are followed by a repeat of Harju. It adds up to 158.43km of action – and that includes two passes through Ouninpohja, a remarkable stretch of rollercoaster road regarded as the sport’s biggest test of bravery and commitment.