Hayden Paddon 10th in Rally Finland day one
New Zealand rally ace Hayden Paddon is 10th overall after the opening four stages of the World Rally Championship's (WRC) Rally Finland this morning.
The Geraldine-based driver and his co-driver John Kennard, of Blenheim, are competing in their third FIA World Rally Championship event of 2014 with Hyundai Motorsport.
Paddon started 13th on the road for day one, with the start order decided by WRC drivers' championship order for the 16 competitors driving WRC cars.
Paddon described the day as "trying" having struck intense, wet weather, backed by thunder and lightning, on the opening run through the 23.44km Lankamaa stage.
"This afternoon, in particular with our road position, that sudden rain storm that didn't help and we lost quite a bit of time in the first stage," Paddon said from the rally's service park in host city Jyvaskyla.
"But the second and third stages, when the weather cleared up, were an improvement and we're a lot closer to our team-mates on times, which is where we want to be."
Stage three, a repeated run of the 23.44km Lankamaa test, saw the Kiwis take 20 seconds off their stage time from the first run to secure the ninth quickest time, just behind Hyundai Motorsport team-mates Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul, from Belgium, in the #7 Hyundai i20 WRC and the Finnish duo of Juho Hänninen and Tomi Tuominen in the #8 car.
Paddon and Kennard completed their action with a solid run on the 2.27km mixed surface Harju test which includes a gravel section through parkland and tarmac roads in the heart of Jyvaskyla.
One of the legendary Finnish stages, it returns to the event this year after a 16-year absence.
All three Hyundai i20 WRC cars have ended the four stages in the top ten overall with local hero Hänninen in fifth place after a strong start to his home rally.
Neuville also improved as conditions dried out and starts day two in eighth overall.
Jari-Matti Latvala narrowly leads his home WRC round by just over four seconds from Volkswagen teammate Sebastien Ogier.
"Of course we can keep improving and (the next lot of) stages will suit us better. We're back on new roads so we're really looking forward to that," Paddon said.
Day two takes competitors south-west of Jyvaskyla and is the longest day of the rally with 134.47 competitive kilometres over nine special stages.