Hayden Paddon in his Hyundai i20 WRC car has sky rocketed up the leader board to 6th place on the first full day of competition at Rally Sweden, the second round of the World Rally Championship.
After the opening super special stage around the Karlstad trotting track, on Friday morning New Zealand time, Paddon with co-driver John Kennard had been lying 18th.
A change of driving style and benefitting through other driver’s misfortunes has seen Geraldine’s Paddon climb well inside the top ten and a point’s scoring place in both the driver’s and manufacturer’s world championships for Hyundai.
“This afternoon has been much better,” said Paddon. “I didn’t have much confidence in the differential set up of the car this morning. But I got more aggressive with it in the repeat run of the stages this afternoon.”
Paddon is driving the car originally set up for team-mate Dani Sordo, who has had to miss the event because of damaged ribs from a mountain bike accident.
“The diffs have been set up for Dani’s driving style, but I found the car difficult to turn into corners and carry corner speed,” said Paddon.
The change in attitude worked. Paddon had reached the lunch time re-group in 11th place.
In successive stages he climbed to ninth, then seventh and sixth. “We’ve bounced off a few snow banks where that’s possible,” said Paddon. His performance has been visibly noticeable too.
Paddon emerged from the day’s last forestry stage without a front bumper. He lost it on a hay bale on one of the artificial chicanes put on the very fast ice and snow covered roads to slow the cars.
Paddon lost a few seconds in one stage when he caught ex Formula One driver Robert Kubicia who started two minutes ahead but only had two wheel drive.
Other drivers have not been so fortunate Jari-Matti Latvala, Chris Meeke and Elfyn Evans have all spent time off the road stuck in snow banks after falling victim to the conditions.
The day’s competition – most of it over the border in Norway – has been held in mild conditions – it was only minus 1 degree – but there have still been light snow showers in some of the stages.
The Kiwi pair are competing in just their second snow rally, having last competed in Sweden in 2012, the year they won the Production Car World Rally Championship.
Tonight’s competition sees a loop of four stages repeated twice from the main service park at Hagfors 90 kms north of Karlstad, with the event finishing on Monday morning New Zealand time with just three stages.
Rally Sweden, after Stage 9
1, A Mikkelsen, O Floene (Volkswagen Polo WRC) 1 hr 12 mins 27.7 secs;
2, T Neuville, N Gilsoul (Hyundai i20WRC) 126.96.36.199;
3, M Ostberg, J Andersson (Citroen DS3 WRC) 188.8.131.52;
4, S Ogier, J Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo WRC) 184.108.40.206;
5, O Tanak, R Molder (Ford Fiesta WRC) 220.127.116.11;
6, H Paddon, J Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1.14.03.7.