Despite deteriorating road conditions Hayden Paddon (Geraldine) has held onto sixth place in his Hyundai i20 WRC car at the end of the penultimate day of competition at Rally Sweden, the second round of the World Rally Championship.
With Blenheim co-driver John Kennard, Paddon started the eight stages with a 23.4 second buffer over Czech driver Martin Prokop and by the end of the day had extended that advantage to 27.4 seconds.
At the top of the leader board Paddon’s Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville goes into the final three stages totalling 47 kms tonight New Zealand time with a 1.5 second lead over Andreas Mikkelsen.
Neuville and Paddon used a different tyre strategy to the rest of the field taking two spare tyres with them when they left the Hagfors service park for the afternoon loop of stages, which they fitted to the front of their i20 WRCs before the last stage.
The other top runners only had one spare and did not benefit from fresh rubber for the final test of the day. Neuville won the stage to take the lead and Paddon had his best stage of the day – sixth fastest – to cement his overall position.
“It’s been a challenging day,” said Paddon. “The road conditions get worse with every car through the stages and this afternoon they became quite rutted on the second time through.”
“It was tricky, especially in the corners with the car jumping out of the ruts at times.”
The Kiwi pair maintained sixth place throughout the day, although Ukrainian driver Yuri Protasov got to within 10 seconds of Paddon having over taken Prokop while on his charge. But his bid for a top six position ended in a snow bank.
“We need to focus on a good clean day tomorrow to bring it home,” said Paddon.
Rally Sweden, after Stage 18
1, T Neuville, N Gilsoul (Hyundai i20WRC) 2hrs 29 mins 54.5 secs;
2, A Mikkelsen, O Floene (Volkswagen Polo WRC) 2.29.56;
3, S Ogier, J Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo WRC) 2.30.04.1;
4, M Ostberg, J Andersson (Citroen DS3 WRC) 22.214.171.124;
5, O Tanak, R Molder (Ford Fiesta WRC) 126.96.36.199;
6, H Paddon, J Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) 188.8.131.52.