Hayden Paddon in prime position
Hayden Paddon starts the final day of Rallye de France in the box seat with a lead of almost two minutes in the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship.
Paddon was slowly extending his day-one lead of 2.2 seconds over Craig Breen when the Irishman suffered a rear differential problem allowing Saudi Yazeed Al-Rajhi to go past him on the day's final stage.
If the positions stay the same Paddon will regain the overall championship lead in the SWRC, in his Skoda Fabia with a round left to go.
"It's not been a bad day and we've been able to extend our lead after Craig had his problem," Paddon said.
"That was with virtually no pre-event testing. It's not been a bad effort for our first time on tarmac with this car.”
Swede Per-Gunnar Andersson was in a relatively comfortable third place despite suffering a spin on stage 11.
A right-rear puncture slowed him down and dropped him to fourth and it got worse for the Swede who started stage 14 behind schedule before stopping within the run due to a suspected alternator failure.
He could restart on Sunday but his retirement could have disastrous consequences for his SWRC title bid having begun the event with a narrow eight-point lead over Breen and Paddon.
The winner of each round receives the maximum 25 points, with 18 for second.
Paddon also won five of the first day's seven stages.
"We're happy to get to the end of first day without too many problems," Paddon said.
"Other than the spin, it's been a good day. "We've not been on the limit, just trying to learn where the grip is and how the Skoda handles on tarmac."
The high-speed spin on stage four cost the Kiwis 20 seconds.
Paddon said fortunately they were able to build a good lead beforehand.
"We were lucky to just get away with that, after a ‘moment' on a slippery right hander while flat out in fifth gear."
The afternoon was dry and sunny as Paddon took three more stage wins on the repeated longer stages.
The Timaru Herald