Hayden Paddon and John Kennard have ended the second day of Rallye de France Alsace with a lead of nearly two minutes in the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship category. Despite the reasonably comfortable lead, the Kiwis remain focussed on a steady performance on Sunday to successfully complete the event and secure the category win.
With another five stage wins to their credit, the Skoda-driving New Zealanders have delivered a strong performance for a second positive day on the challenging twisty, tarmac rally route southwest of host city Strasbourg in the east of France.
“We have completed another successful day today in France, although our battle with our closest Craig Breen unfortunately ended in the afternoon when Craig had rear differential problems. We finished the day one minute, 58.7 seconds ahead of Saudi driver Yazeed Al Rajhi and have a relatively short day on Sunday to complete the event,” says Paddon.
“The morning was a strange one, with two of the four stages cancelled; the first due to a fellow competitor’s accident mid-stage, and the second due to too many spectators on the stage. However we did manage to build our lead to 15 seconds while driving at a comfortable pace.”
The afternoon’s four stages all ran as scheduled with Al Rajhi in a Ford providing Paddon with his only serious competition. Paddon took three stage wins, Al Rajhi one.
“With Craig losing a lot of time throughout the afternoon and current championship leader P-G Andersson spinning, getting a puncture and then having alternator problems, John and I were able back off a little and take it easy throughout the rest of the afternoon. We just kept the car in the middle of the road and took extra caution on the dirty sections.”
Paddon says rain is expected for Sunday’s 61.54 km of timed stages, broken into six short tests.
“Despite our lead we still need to drive at a comfortable pace and not make any mistakes. That is our only priority now as this result would be the perfect outcome. Nevertheless, we are not going to count our chickens before they hatch. Just more of the same tomorrow, more time to get used to the car and maybe learn some more things about tarmac driving.”
Andersson is due to restart on Sunday but as he had a small eight point advantage over Paddon and Breen who were second equal coming into Rally France, the SWRC championship lead looks likely to change by Sunday afternoon.
Paddon’s New Zealand World Rally Team is supported by PlaceMakers, Giltrap Group, Skoda, Z Energy, ENZED, ATEED, GO Rentals, Cameron Sea and Airfreight, Granger Design, Raiseys, New Balance, Pope Print, Racetech, Chicane Racewear, Endless Brake Pads, 1 Group web design, Brita Safety, Rally Tours, MAK-Corp, EPS International, Saddle Hill Quarries, Monit Rally Computers, Bluebridge Ferries, Stadium Finance, and Ewing Engineering Contractors.