Wanaka’s Hayden Paddon and co-driver Mal Peden park their Hyundai after today’s eight special stages at the ENEOS International Rally of Whangarei holding an advantage of 4m02.4sec.
Placed second at the overnight halt is Ben Hunt and Tony Rawstorn in a Subaru while third is Emma Gilmour and Anthony McLoughlin in a Suzuki.
Opening the six-round FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) and the second round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC), the event is contested across 277km of fast flowing Northland New Zealand roads.
Starting Friday night with a double-run of a 1km long Super Special Stage. Paddon set the scene, taking a near 5sec lead into today’s eight high-speed tests, held north of host city Whangarei.
Autumnal weather conditions included fog for the opening stages set north of host city Whangarei, causing angst for some. While Paddon added a further 38sec on the field after the opening test, it caught out Australian pairing Richie Dalton and Dale Moscat who left the road at speed.
Mechanical issues then slowed leading international entry Mike Young and Malcom Read in the Toyota Vitz, eventually grinding them to a halt mid-morning after sitting second overall behind Paddon.
The journey returned the teams to Whangarei for a midday service break before repeating the loop of stages in the afternoon. Paddon again set fastest time in each test to stretch his advantage.
Italy’s Fabio Frisiero and Simone Scattolin in the Peugeot head the international field, 19th overall with Yuya Sumiyama and Takahiro Yasui from Japan 21st, in a Skoda.
“I’ve been really happy with how today has gone. We were trying to look after the tyres this afternoon and manage the through the stages with them. Its been a really enjoyable day and everything has gone according to plan. With the slightly different stages tomorrow we will hopefully manage to keep pushing on and hopefully maintain what we have gotten from today,” said Paddon after the day’s action.
Paddon won the event in 2007, 2009 and 2010.
“This afternoon has gone a lot better on the second time through. It’s been a surprise to be leading international but we’re happy,” said Frisiero. “As the day has gone on our confidence got better. Our feeling for the car got better and so did the grip. Hopefully we will be able to keep it going for tomorrow.”
With the pleasant weather set to continue; Sunday’s remaining eight stages take the teams south of Whangarei. Starting at 7am the journey heads south through Waipu Caves and Millbrook areas before heading west and north through Waiotira and back to Whangarei for a service break mid-morning. Following the late morning early afternoon repeat run the cars then arrive back in Whangarei for the ceremonial finish, held at the Quayside Town Basin from 3pm.