Paddon in 11th in WRC Rally Italia Sardegna

STU PIDDINGTON
Last updated 10:14 07/06/2014
Hayden Paddon
Hyundai Motorsport

ON TRACK: Hayden Paddon endured his hardest day yet behind the wheel of a rally car, but got through it on the Rally Italia Sardegna.

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Kiwi Hayden Paddon is in 11th place after safely completing the opening day of the Rally Italia Sardegna.

Paddon described it as a tough day with a puncture, niggles with the gearbox, the car not handling as he'd like it to, and problems with rocks and tricky road surfaces.

He and co-driver completed all eight stages, which was their key goal, in what Paddon described as the most difficult drive he's ever contested.

It was the first time he'd driven the Hyundai i20 WRC car and he ended the day 5 minutes 31.3 seconds behind leader Jari-Matti Latvala in a Volkswagen.

"It has been a very challenging day. We are struggling a lot and these are very, very tricky roads to be on for the first time.

''The pace notes aren't working quite so well and I'm struggling to get the car to do the things I want it to do. It's very tough.''

It was also Paddon's debut for Hyundai Motorsport in the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship. He finished the day ahead of his two teammates, who had little luck.

Thierry Neuville and Juho Hanninen - running seventh and 12th respectively - had traded places at the top of the leaderboard on the first three stages, but Hanninen rolled his Hyundai i20 on special stage 5, while Neuville suddenly stopped 4.1km into the 27.3km stage with damaged front-right suspension.

He repaired the damage by the roadside, but dropped 23 minutes, and was out of the hunt.

VW Motorsport's Latvala would take a healthy 22.4 seconds lead into day two after a bruising first day on the island's rough gravel stages.

Latvala didn't have things his own way, running second on the road behind teammate Sebastien Ogier. He too had the unenviable task of sweeping the slippery gravel and sand from the road ahead.

Ogier's journey to the top of the leaderboard was almost as impressive as Latvala's.

The Frenchman's stage times improved dramatically on the cleaner roads in the afternoon and he stormed from sixth place at the midday point to second place after the final stage.

Third place went to Citroen's Mads Ostberg at the end of the last stage.

Overnight the action consisted of four stages, totalling 156.8km.

The crews would face the longest stage in the entire championship twice - the 59km Monte Lerno test that also featured the spectacular Micky's Jump.

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