WRC Rally Australia: Paddon off to flying start
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New Zealand‘s Hayden Paddon is making the most of an unconventional tyre selection for the opening morning of WRC Rally Australia.
While his rivals departed the Coffs Harbour service park with five soft compound Michelin tyres, Paddon’s choice for the morning loop of five stages equipped his Hyundai i20 with three soft and two hard compound tyres.
Paddon predicted tyre management would play an important part in the event and says he wanted to try an alternative strategy to his rivals.
The Kiwi star was third fastest through the 7.88km opening stage with Volkswagen’s Andreas Mikkelsen taking the stage win. Paddon then won the 16.75km Bakers Creek stage and edged into the rally lead by 0.6secs from Mikkelsen (Volkswagen) with Estonian Ott Tanak (Ford) a further 3.0secs back.
Paddon then lost 1.7secs to Mikkelsen in stage three, explaining to WRC Radio at the stage finish that the hard compound tyres on the front wheels were a slight disadvantage on the tighter sections of stage three.
The overall standings after three stages saw Mikkelsen in front by 1.1secs from Paddon. Tanak had settled into third position trailing the rally leader by 5.5secs with Hyundai’s Dani Sordo (Spain) running fourth a further 1.2secs behind.
The drivers running first on the fast-sweeping gravel surfaces were losing time this morning. World champion Sebastien Ogier (Volkswagen) was in seventh position, 17.4s behind Mikkelsen and Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) was 15.0s behind the rally leader.
Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala (Volkswagen) completed the first stage with damaged suspension after clipping a bridge, losing about 30secs and was then significantly delayed before starting SS2 and limping through at much reduced pace.