New Zealand’s star rally drivers Hayden Paddon and John Kennard end the first day of WRC Coates Hire Rally Australia feeling positive about their overall position of sixth.
“It hasn’t been too bad today,” said Paddon after the day’s final two runs of the super special stage in Coffs Harbour. “It has been difficult though, and maybe some of the changes we made took the car in the wrong direction. Tomorrow’s stages are just like home to me, I know them and I’m feeling very positive about the day.”
Friday’s route comprised two repeated runs through a set of three stages, two around 10km in length and one of 24.91km, which were completed by late afternoon, plus the two quick super special tests in the evening.
Running consistently in the top eight or better through the morning’s stages, Paddon and Kennard were surprised that there wasn’t more grip on the roads given their start order position in 10th.
Speaking from the Coffs Harbour service park at the lunchtime service, Paddon said: “It hasn’t been a bad start here. I think we underestimated the conditions this morning and were expecting there to be a lot more grip running back in 10th position than there was. Nevertheless we’ve got through the opening three stages without any problems. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement, but obviously to be ahead of our team-mate Chris Atkinson is a nice bonus. However we want to be further up the field yet, so will be making some small changes to the setup of the Hyundai i20 WRC to better suit my driving for this afternoon. We want to push and make some improvements. Overall it’s not a bad start, but there’s a lot more to come.”
Paddon felt more confident on the afternoon’s repeated stages. Finishing the second run of the 10.73km Hydes Creek just 4.1 seconds off the pace of defending champion and current championship leader, Sébastien Ogier, with the seventh quickest time, Paddon said: “We made some changes and the car is more positive with the front now.”
The Kiwis ended the second run through the long Newry stage distracted by a loose brake pedal and oil warning lights but still in sixth position overall. They then wrapped up the day’s action with two strong runs through the short – just 1.56km – super special stage still holding sixth place. The pair is 37.9 seconds behind M-Sport Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen in fifth and 3.9 seconds ahead of Citroën’s Mads Ostberg. Paddon and Kennard are also the leading Hyundai crew with team-mates Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul in 10th after hitting a rock and damaging the suspension, and Chris Atkinson and Stéphane Prevot in 11th.
With rain forecast for Saturday, Paddon will start mid-pack in the running order which is a reversed line-up of the provisional classification after stage six.
“We’re really looking forward to tomorrow and roads that suit us a lot better.”
On Saturday crews head further south from Coffs Harbour to a selection of hard-based shire roads west of Nambucca Heads, which include the monster Nambucca stage which, at 48.92 km, is one of the longest of the season. The 12-14 September running of Rally Australia, the 10th round of the 2014 World Rally Championship, finishes on Sunday with the action moving north of Coffs to three stages repeated both morning and afternoon.
Paddon and the HPRG team appreciates the support of their exclusive partners VINZ, PlaceMakers, Pak n’ Save and Hyundai New Zealand along with associate support from Z Energy, Scott Sports and New Balance.
2014 Rally Australia: Overall classification after SS8
Pos, Driver, Total Time, Diff Prev, Diff 1st
1. S. OGIER, Volkswagen Polo R WRC, 58:05.8, 0,
2. J. LATVALA, Volkswagen Polo R WRC, 58:06.2, +0.4, +0.4
3. A. MIKKELSEN, Volkswagen Polo R WRC, 58:09.3, +3.1, +3.5
4. K. MEEKE, Citroën DS3 WRC, 58:09.9, +0.6, +4.1
5. M. HIRVONEN, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 58:13.7, +3.8, +7.9
6. H. PADDON, Hyundai i20 WRC, 58:52.2, +38.5, +46.4
7. M. OSTBERG, Citroën DS3 WRC, 58:56.1, +3.9, +50.3
8. R. KUBICA, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 59:03.4, +7.3, +57.6
9. E. EVANS, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 59:36.3, +32.9, +1:30.5
10. T. NEUVILLE, Hyundai i20 WRC, 1:00:14.2, +37.9, +2:08.4