Top Kiwi driver Hayden Paddon has a commendable lead in the International Rally of Whangarei midway through the two-day event.

Paddon, and his co-driver John Kennard, in the Paddon Direct Mitsubishi have a one minute, ten second advantage over Indian Gaurav Gill and Australian Glenn Macneall in the MRF Tyres Mitsubishi. A second Kiwi, Emma Gilmour in her Subaru Impreza WRX, with co-driver Ben Atkinson, complete the top three in the international event which is part of both the Asia Pacific and New Zealand rally championships.

Paddon said he wanted to go hard from the outset, but the 23-year-old two-time New Zealand champion almost went too hard during the event’s opening and longest stage, Mititai, southwest of Whangarei. “We had a bit of a moment about halfway through and pretty much had all four wheels down a bank.”

With the option to use whatever tyres they choose, competitors in this event invest considerable time and effort to get the best possible choice to suit road conditions. Paddon said: “There was a fine line in our tyre choice for this afternoon. If we went back out on a soft [as he used in the morning] it would have been too soft and the medium perhaps a little bit too hard – it’s just a matter of some compromise really. We’d like to find a bit more speed again tomorrow.  This is the first time on this style of tyre for us so were getting an idea of how they operate , especially if some wet weather comes [as is forecast] that will probably help us a bit [running first on the road].”

Current Asia Pacific Rally Championship leader and Gill’s MRF Tyres team-mate Katsu Taguchi, from Japan, has had a tough day as the number one seed. From his position at the front of the field, the former APRC champion is struggling in 23rd position with engine problems that the team hopes to fix overnight.

Paddon’s dominance was clear, as he won six of the day’s eight stages. The two other wins, on the 1.5 km Pohe super special stage, went to Taguchi for one and Gill and Gilmour sharing the honours on the second run.

Also featuring during the day’s action were the bright yellow Proton Super 2000 rally cars of former World Rally Championship drivers Scotsman Alister McRae and Australian Chris Atkinson. Atkinson showed pace early on finishing the first two long stages fourth and second but, by the third stage, mechanical woes had again struck the Proton which suffered alternator issues. With the car now repaired, Atkinson is scheduled to restart in eleventh position on Sunday.

McRae has had a better day than his team-mate despite “not flowing 100%” in the earlier stages. McRae made a change in tyre choice during the lunchtime service break, resulting in consistent top five stage times through the afternoon. “We went for a harder compound tyre and made a few suspension changes, so the car is more to my liking now,” said McRae.

With Paddon, Gill and Gilmour heading the overall standings, Paddon also tops the overnight leader-board for the Vantage New Zealand Rally Championship and the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship. Gilmour and former NZRC title-holder Chris West round out the NZRC top three, while Gill and McRae complete the APRC top three.

The event also features a strong contingent of clubmans’ competitors which has Rotorua’s Ian Wood leading overnight in his Subaru Impreza WRX.

The rally resumes just after 8am on Sunday with Paddon leading the field through another eight competitive stages before the ceremonial finish at Whangarei’s Quayside Town Basin from 3:30pm.

Overall results, Saturday 3 July (day one), International Rally of Whangarei
Position, Driver/Co-driver, Car, Difference to leader
1, Hayden Paddon (Geraldine)/John Kennard, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX
2, Gaurav Gill (India)/Glenn Macneall, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X (+1:10.8)
3, Emma Gilmour (Hamilton)/Ben Atkinson, Subaru Impreza WRX STI (+1:48.1)
4, Alister McRae (Great Britain)/Bill Hayes, Proton Satria Neo (+1:58.0)
5, Brendan Reeves (Australia)/Rhianon Smyth, Subaru Impreza WRX STI (+2:17.9)
6=, Chris West (Christchurch)/Chris Cobham, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX (+2:38.0)
6=, 18 Patrick Malley (Auckland)/Malcolm Read, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX (+2:38.0)
8, Glenn Inkster (Auckland)/Glenn Goldring, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX (+2:44.6)
9, Dean Sumner (Rotorua)/Paul Fallon, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX (+2:46.0)
10, Glenn Smith (Hawera)/Campbell Ward, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X (+3:19.4) 

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