Hayden Paddon starts Rally Portugal strongly with third-quickest time on super special stage
Hayden Paddon and Sebastian Marshall have made a pleasing start to their partnership in the World Rally Championship.
Kiwi driver Paddon and English co-driver Marshall were third quickest in the event-opening super special stage at Rally Portugal on Thursday night (Friday morning NZ time).
After finishing 10th in the 4.61km pre-event Shakedown test in the morning, the pair clocked a time of two minutes 36.7 seconds for their two laps of the 1.68km-long circuit in the northern Portuguese town of Lousada.
The strong run was just 0.1 seconds slower than joint stage winners Thierry Neuville, Paddon's Belgian team-mate at Hyundai Motorsport, and M-Sport's Mads Ostberg, of Norway.
Paddon expressed his satisfaction with the slick effort on social media.
"Just missed our first Super Special stage win by 0.1. But good way to start the rally. Looking forward to the proper stages tomorrow," he said on his official Twitter account.
Just missed our first Super Speical stage win by 0.1 😬But good way to start the rally. Looking forward to the proper stages tomorrow 👍🏻 pic.twitter.com/ohYEnuHnOx— Hayden Paddon (@HaydenPaddon) May 18, 2017
While the short opening super special stage is unlikely to have a significant bearing come the end of the event, Paddon will be hopeful the result might be a sign of changing fortunes.
The 30-year-old from Geraldine, a rally winner for the first time in the WRC last season, has had a frustrating start to the 2017 season.
A combination of small mistakes, mechanical issues and bad luck leave him tied for seventh overall after five rounds of the 13-round championship.
Marshall is making an earlier than expected appearance as the Geraldine driver's co-pilot in Portugal.
The 28-year-old from Leeds was scheduled to take over the role permanently after Rally Finland in July but has been called on with longtime Paddon co-driver John Kennard given medical advice to rest a niggling hip injury.