Hayden Paddon demonstrated his considerable talent behind the wheel of a rally car during day one of Rally New Zealand 2011, establishing a convincing margin of 2 minutes, 17.3 seconds over Richard Mason and a close-chasing pack.
As top seed for the two-day rally, Paddon led from the first stage of the day. The Geraldine-based Subaru driver, who has just turned 24, was nearly 13 seconds faster through the opening 32.3km Te Akau stage than former New Zealand rally champion Chris West, from Christchurch. Then, with each competitive stage, Paddon, a two-time New Zealand rally champion, added to his leading margin and winning six of the day’s eight stages.
Mason, from Masterton and driving another Subaru, finished the day in second place, just 10.4 seconds ahead of Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour. This pair, along with West and defending champion Dean Sumner, from Taupo, had an intensely competitive day, changing positions on the leader-board behind Paddon. Gilmour held second place until the day’s final super special stage, but a fuel surge meant the Subaru driver lost some time and allowed Mason to take back the runner-up position.
Paddon said he and co-driver John Kennard had a really good day. “It’s fantastic to be in the lead and great to know all the testing we’ve done with the car in recent days has worked.”
With another six stages to run on Sunday, including the iconic Whaanga Coast stage, Paddon acknowledges it’s another big day of competition. “The road conditions should be very similar to today – wet on the road, but fine. However a bit of rain could help us at the front. We’re in a really good position from here.”
Paddon Rally New Zealand day 1 blog
Also for live updates from the man himself and the team Go and join his facebook page at facebook.com/haydenpaddonwrc