Kiwi rally ace Hayden Paddon had a “heart in mouth moment” on the French Island of Corsica.
Dubbed the ‘Rally of 10,000 Corners’, Tour de Corse is renowned for its tight, twisting mountain roads and never-ending sequences of turns.
Paddon and co-driver John Kennard’s moment came early on in special stage 3.
“We’re very lucky. After one kilometre we hit a rock and damaged a wheel and had a bad vibration after that.”
“We had a near miss later, close to a sheer drop. A heart in the mouth moment.”
Paddon sits 11th overall after the opening day, 1m 14.9s behind leader off surprise leader Welshman Elfyn Evans, but only 1.7s behind runaway championship leader Sebastien Ogier.
Evans has comfortable 18.7s lead over second placed Dutch driver Kevin Abbring, who is Paddon’s team-mate for the WRC event.
Weather has also played a big part with the second stage cancelled due to land slips caused by a rare weather phenomenon similar to a tropical storm, which also made driving conditions difficult on the island.
The 28-year-old Paddon admitted the conditions took there toll.
“I was very cautious but I have never driven the car on wet tarmac before and it’s hard to have confidence.”
He finished the opening stage in 15th, 54.3s off the lead.
Ogier said he hit a stone or something on the final stage.
“I knew it would be a lottery here with so many rocks and stones around. We had a slow rear puncture and had to stop and change it.”
Hyundai driver Thierrry Neuville bid for a second victory on the island came to an end just 1.2km into the first stage, when his i20 slid wide into a low bridge and and collected right-rear suspension damage.
The Belgian and his co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul attempted a roadside repair but were forced to out of the day.
The event which is a throwback to classic endurance rallies, featuring only nine special stages across the three days.