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Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard showed their pace against world-class competition on the second day of Rally Finland, moving into straight into third place in the WRC2 category with a flying run on the day’s opening special stage.

Despite some challenges with traction earlier in the day, the Kiwi duo improved from their fourth equal placing after day one to spend much of Friday, day two, mixing stage times with former Formula 1 driver Pole Robert Kubica who was running in second behind the uncatchable leader Finn Jari Ketomaa.

After hitting a suspension-breaking rock on the penultimate stage, Paddon and Kennard lost time but still held a well-deserved third place through to day’s end.
Paddon reports: “It was an up-and-down day today but we have made it through holding a podium spot.

“Straight away this morning we were able to climb to third and challenge Robert Kubica all day for second place. On the first and last stage of each loop everything worked well. However the two middle stages which were a bit rougher which we struggled with – we’re not exactly why, but it will give me some homework after the event.”

Paddon said the repeated stages run in the afternoon were the roughest he’d ever seen in Finland with huge ruts and rocks making the conditions very tricky.

“Particularly with the car bouncing and getting knocked around, it is difficult to judge the speed. But when the roads are smooth we have good pace and most parts of the stages tomorrow should be smoother.”

Going into stage 14 around 6pm on Friday evening Finnish time, Paddon and Kennard were just over 20 seconds behind Kubica.

“Unfortunately mid-way through the 23 km stage in a blind, fast right-hand corner, a massive rock was on the line that we simply could not avoid. We hit it head-on with the front left wheel and the impact broke a lot of the suspension components. We were able to crawl through the rest of the stage and the final super special stage but losing over 90 seconds has put us too far behind Kubica to catch him now.

“Of course it’s still good to be third and we will keep pushing and adapting to the car tomorrow to set some good stage times.”

Saudi driver Yazeed Al Rajhi is fourth overnight, 36.2 seconds behind Paddon. Finn Esapekka Lappi – the Asia Pacific Rally Championship winner at the International Rally of Whangarei earlier this year – was hot on Paddon’s tail until broken rear suspension side-lined his Skoda Fabia S2000 this afternoon. Estonia’s Karl Kruuda – with whom Paddon shared fourth equal after day one – went out with a broken anti-roll bar on his Fiesta R5.

Paddon and Kennard are contesting their first World Rally Championship event of the 2013 season, the 1 to 3 August running of Rally Finland, in a Skoda Fabia S2000 car prepared by Austria-based team Baumschlager Rallye & Racing (BRR).

The WRC2 class replaces the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship that the Kiwis competed in last season and includes several new classes of rally car including the R5 and RRC spec vehicles like the Ford Fiesta R5, Ford Fiesta RRC and Citroën DC3 RRC, as well as the Super 2000 cars like Paddon’s Skoda Fabia S2000.

The rally continues on Saturday with the final eight stages over 130.20 km, including two runs of the 33 km Ouninpohja stage with its famous jumps, before concluding around 6 pm that evening. 

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