A morning of gains and one loss has positioned New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon in second place mid-way through the opening day of WRC Rally Australia at Coffs Harbour.
Paddon traded the lead with Volkswagen’s Andreas Mikkelsen (Norway) through the first three stages until losing time in stage four.
The Kiwi Hyundai driver dropped 12.6secs to rally leader Mikkelsen in the Newry stage as he found a combination of hard compound front tyres and soft compound rears created a handling problem for his Hyundai i20.
Paddon had opted for the mixed tyre combination while all of his main rivals had selected soft Michelins for the morning stages.
Paddon reported clipping banks four times and having three near spins as he battled for grip through the stage.
Fortunately for the Kiwi the stage had been chopped from the originally scheduled 24.3km to 10.5km due to concerns about a section with extremely dusty conditions.
"We decided to go on a tyre choice that was different to everyone else. It worked on a couple of stages and back-fired quite a lot on the fourth stage,’’ said Paddon.
"You learn from these things. Sometimes you have to be brave and try some things.’’
With temperatures rising toward 30dgeC for this afternoon the hard compound tyre is expected to be universal choice for the second run through the stages.
"I think this morning was the only place in the rally where you can do something [different] with tyres,’’ said Paddon.
"We’re lucky were still in the hunt after that fourth stage and we’ll see if we can close that gap a little bit this afternoon.
"On these stages it’s hard to make a big gap. If we can close the gap a little bit and be within 10secs for tomorrow that would be a good position to be in.’’
Also struggling in the Newry stage was Estonia’s Ott Tanak (Ford) who had a sticking throttle which cost more than 30secs and dropped him from third to eighth place.
Paddon may not be the only Hyundai driver to lose time this morning. Spaniard Dani Sordo has copped a 20secs penalty for clocking into the stage four time control two minutes late, dropping him from second to seventh place and promoting Paddon to second.
Mikkelsen leads the rally by 14.2secs and Volkswagen’s world champion Sebastien Ogier (France) has completed a morning sweeping the slippery gravel roads in third position and trails Paddon by 5.9s. Next are Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville (Belgium) who is 1.1secs behind the world champ with Norwegian Mads Ostberg (Ford) completing the top-five.
Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland) limped through the morning stages with suspension damage after clipping a bridge in the opening stag. He is 25th overall and trails his rally leading team-mate by more than six minutes.
Four of the morning stages are being repeated this afternoon before the crews return to Coffs Harbour and regroup before two runs through at waterfront super special stage near the Coffs Jetty which starts at 7pm (NZ time).